Washington, Dec 7 (efe-epa).- United States president-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate retired four-star General Lloyd J. Austin III, who was the commander of US forces in Iraq and headed the Central Command, as the next secretary of defense, according to various media reports.
If confirmed by the Senate, Austin will become the first African-American to head the Pentagon.
Austin, 67, was the head of Central Command, in charge of US military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria.
He held that position from 2013 to 2016, when he retired from the army to join the private sector.
Austin will also need a waiver of a legal requirement from Congress to be appointed as Defense Secretary since the law establishes he has been out of his service for only four years.
The law requires a seven-year waiting period after leaving the active service to become the Pentagon chief.
General James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s first Defense Secretary, got a similar waiver when he got appointed in 2017.
Austin is one of three probable candidates for the job. The other two are former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, also an African American, and Pentagon official Michèle A. Flournoy.
Flournoy was undersecretary of defense during the Barack Obama presidency.
Austin has had a long career in the Pentagon and is one of the few to have broken the glass ceiling of the military leadership for African Americans.
He was also the last commanding general of US Forces–Iraq for the so-called Operation New Dawn, which ended on Dec 18, 2011.
In 2015, Austin fared poorly in a Congressional hearing in which he admitted that the Pentagon had spent $500 million on a program to train Syrian opposition fighters in futility.
After 41 years in service, Austin retired in 2016. He joined the board of directors of Raytheon Technologies, one of the Pentagon’s largest contractors.
He is also on the boards of Nucor, the largest steel producer in the US, and healthcare company Tenet.
Biden on Monday announced several members of his incoming administration’s health care team, headed by current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He tapped epidemiologist Anthony Fauci to be his chief medical advisor.
He has announced his candidates for important posts such as secretary of state (Anthony Blinken), treasury secretary (Janet Yellen), and national security chief (Alejandro Mayorkas).
The president-elect has said that his administration will be “the most diverse” ever in terms of racial and gender makeup. EFE-EPA