June 12, 2024

Biden’s Defense secretary pick would become the first Black man to lead the department if confirmed 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of Defense, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN on Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense.

Biden reached out to Austin over the weekend to offer the job, according to the source, and he accepted. Austin emerged as the leading candidate last week, the source said. Politico was first to report on Biden’s selection of Austin.

Biden will likely announce the retired Army general as his nominee on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. The President-elect is also expected to announce some domestic Cabinet picks on Friday, the source said.

The selection would make Austin one of the most prominent members of Biden’s Cabinet and incoming administration. The secretary of defense is in control of the nation’s largest government agency, commanding troops around the world and the complicated internal workings of the Pentagon that make it one of the world’s most formidable bureaucracies.

It also means Austin’s political chops would be put to the test, juggling calls to cut defense spending, as some in Congress want, while still funding innovative future technology and prioritizing the challenges posed by Russia and China — all while maintaining military deterrence against Iran, North Korea and ISIS.

Austin has a long history of working within the Pentagon, and has worked with Biden closely in the past.

When he was vice president, Biden worked with Austin in a variety of positions, most prominently when he was commander of CENTCOM from 2013 to 2016, during which they had discussions on a range of issues including the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

Before that, but still during Biden’s time as vice president, Austin was vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of US forces in Iraq.

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Jessica Dean reports: