New York Correspondent
Joe Biden plans to appoint Lloyd Austin for the post of Secretary of Defense, as several US media have advanced this Monday, such as “Politico” or “Bloomberg.” This 67-year-old retired general will thus become the first black to lead the Pentagon.
The black minority has been in the ranks of the US military since the Revolutionary War and the creation of the country, but their presence in the military leadership has been very limited.
Austin has also been the only black man in the history of the country’s Armed Forces andn lead the Central Command, the main combat command and that affects most of the regions in which the US is involved in armed conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or Syria.
Austin is a prestigious military man, who has had very little political voice and is highly revered within the ranks, especially among members of the racial minority, who see him as an example of change in a white-dominated leadership.
With your choice, Biden follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump, which placed another retired general, James Mattis, in charge of the Defense Department as soon as he became president. Like Mattis, Austin will need special permission from Congress, as he has been out of service for less than seven years, the time that the law imposes for the military to be in charge of the Pentagon.
Trump initially revered Mattis and his military pedigree, but they ended up at odds: the general resigned at the end of 2018 and criticized him strongly once out of government, and the president now calls him the “most overrated general in the world.”
It remains to be seen what the relationship between Biden and Austin will be. The then Secretary of Defense when Austin was appointed to lead Central Command, Chuck Hagel, celebrated his “Calm demeanor, strategic vision, regional knowledge and experience, and proven judgment”. But Austin has also shown himself capable of slipping. In an appearance in Congress, he was not able to answer what had happened to a game of 500 million dollars dedicated to forming a Syrian army in opposition to Bashar al Assad.
It is impossible to separate his appointment from the pressures that Biden receives from different groups during the process of formation of what will be his Cabinet from his inauguration, scheduled for January 20.
So far, Biden had not elected any member of the black minority to any high-ranking position in his government. Austin was not first in the pools for the position in Defense. The favorite was Michelle Flournoy, who aspired to become the first woman in office.
According to “Bloomberg,” Congressman James Clyburn pressured Biden to make the Pentagon chief a black person for the first time. Clyburn, the highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, was decisive in Biden’s victory in the primaries. As his campaign drifted, he offered his support just before the vote in his state, South Carolina, where Biden prevailed strongly and resurrected his candidacy.