US: Biden vouches for Lloyd Austin, retired four-star general, to lead Pentagon

Joe Biden has chosen the man who will embody Defense, a marker of American federal and international politics

Joe Biden has chosen the man who will embody Defense, a marker of American federal and international politics. The President-elect of the United States has appointed former General Lloyd Austin to lead his future Department of Defense. He would become, if confirmed by the Senate, the first African-American leader of the Pentagon, the largest army in the world.

The 67-year-old retired Army general fought in Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming the first man of color to lead the US Army’s central command, CENTCOM.

It was Politico who first revealed the information, then confirmed by the New York Times, CNN and the ABC channel. Joe Biden’s team did not comment. The Democratic president could reveal Austin’s name on Tuesday. He thus seems to have been preferred to Michele Flournoy, who could have become the first woman to lead the Pentagon.

Problem is, he only retired in 2016

The two men know each other from the time of the vice-presidency: Biden had overseen Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw 50,000 American soldiers from Iraq in 2011. Coming from the prestigious military academy of West Point, the former general served more than 40 years in the army, where he climbed the ranks before occupying positions of responsibility, in particular the command of the American forces in the Middle East. Lloyd Austin had succeeded the head of CENTCOM from Jim Mattis, who was Donald Trump’s Defense Minister from 2017 to 2019, and the last iconic figure in this post.

Like many of his predecessors, the “four-star” general retired (in 2016) to retrain in the private defense industry. He sits on the board of directors of Raytheon Technologies, the 3rd largest arms company in the world, for which he has been criticized by some progressives.

In fact, his confirmation by the Senate is not certain: elected representatives of Congress and national security experts have spoken out against his appointment, noting that his retirement was less than 7 years old. The American Congress, which insists on civilian control over the military, a pledge of an apolitical army, has adopted regulations stipulating that a former soldier must be retired for more than 7 years to become Minister of Defense. The first soldier chosen by President Trump to lead the Pentagon, James Mattis had to get the green light from the Senate. Big names in Democrats had refused, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. Others had yielded exceptionally, believing that Mattis’ experience made up for Trump’s inexperience. This time they could hear it differently.

The Conservatives didn’t go quiet about this. “His candidacy should not be considered”, tweeted Conservative elected Justin Amash on Monday. “The law prohibits recently retired members of the armed forces from serving in this civilian capacity. Biden would be the second consecutive president to violate this standard”.

Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20 at the White House, has pledged throughout the campaign to respect traditions, unlike disruptor Donald Trump.

This is why the choice of Michèle Flournoy, who was n° 3 of the Pentagon, is not abandoned. She had received heavy support on Monday from Democrat Adam Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Armed Forces Committee, who ruled that she was “by far the most qualified person for the post.” But she was deemed, by Biden’s left wing, too close to the defense industry. And black parliamentarians and personalities have called on Joe Biden to appoint more African Americans to key cabinet positions, to resemble American society.

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