Biden considers Lloyd Austin, retired four-star general, to head U.S. military: report

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If picked and confirmed by the Senate, Gen. Lloyd Austin would be the first African American to lead the Pentagon

As the transition for President-elect Joe Biden gets slightly smoother, the former vice president has begun to vet candidates for Cabinet positions.

According to Axios, one of the candidates to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense is retired Gen. Lloyd Austin. If picked by Biden and confirmed by the Senate, Austin would become the first Black defense secretary in American history.

Austin joins a shortlist of Pentagon chief candidates that includes Jeh Johnson, the first African American to head the Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, and Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy. Johnson and Flournoy both served under the Obama administration.

Axios reports that Johnson is also being considered for attorney general.

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Austin, 63, began his career with the Army in 1975, rising to become a four-star general. According to Carnegie.org, Austin held several command and staff roles, including Operation Safe Haven in Panama, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the ongoing U.S. military operations to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In 2012, Austin was appointed Army chief of staff and became 12th commander of U.S. Central Command the year after. He retired from the military in 2016.

Although Flournoy was initially reported as a front runner for secretary of defense, some are lobbying the Biden transition team to consider more diverse candidates for high-ranking roles in his administration. It’s been reported that House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn has unhappy with the limited amount of Black Americans being considered for cabinet positions.

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After seeing Linda Thomas-Greenfield be selected to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Clyburn, a longtime Democratic Congressman from South Carolina and one of Biden’s biggest allies, told The Hill that he wanted to see more Black candidates.

“From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Clyburn said. “But there is only one Black woman so far.”

“I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces. But so far it’s not good,” he said.

If Austin is selected by Biden for the defense secretary position, he would need to get a congressional waiver to serve in the cabinet, due to his status as a recent military retiree.

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