President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly selected retired General Lloyd Austin to serve as his Secretary of Defense, according to NBC News.
If confirmed, the decorated military leader would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon. Austin was also the first Black general to command an Army division in combat and the first to oversee an entire theater of operations.
Biden penned an essay in The Atlantic on Tuesday (Dec. 8) explaining his decision to choose Austin for the position. He said what helped him is witnessing Austin’s actions in Iraq in 2010 and 2011 in bringing troops out of the theater.
“He played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war,” Biden wrote. “Pulling that off took more than just the skill and strategy of a seasoned soldier. It required Austin to practice diplomacy, building relationships with our Iraqi counterparts and with our partners in the region. He served as a statesman, representing our country with honor and dignity and always, above all, looking out for his people.
“Today, I ask Lloyd Austin to once more take on a mission for the United States of America—this time as the secretary-designate of the Department of Defense. I know he will do an outstanding job.
In 2016, Austin retired after running the U.S. Central Command. He emerged as a top-tier candidate over the past few weeks after Biden had received growing pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to nominate an African American to be Secretary of Defense in Biden’s new cabinet.
"General Austin is a southerner, has impeccable credentials given his military career and would be an outstanding secretary for the department,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, a CBC member who is close to Biden, told POLITICO on Monday (December 7).
Austin’s appointment would add even more precedent to the history-making diversity already in Biden’s White House staff and tapped cabinet. People of color and women are more represented in the president-elect’s soon-to-be administration. In September, Biden’s campaign announced 46 percent of its full-time staff and 40 percent of its senior staff were people of color. Women made up a greater share of Biden's campaign, totaling 59 percent.