Biden Makes Pick For Defense Secretary

Ted S. Warren

If Joe Biden does eventually become President, he has made his choice for Defense Secretary. Biden has reportedly tapped former General Lloyd Austin to fill the post at the Pentagon, who has previously served as the first Black Commander of CENTCOM ( US Central Command), from 2013 to 2016, when he retired from the Armed Forces.

To be confirmed as the Secretary of Defense, Austin will have to be exempted from a rule that prevents retired military personnel from serving as the Secretary of Defense for the period of seven years after their retirement.  The last to receive the exemption was James Mattis, as he was confirmed to be Secretary of Defense under the Trump administration.

The Washington Times is reporting that Austin may face a challenge to that waiver, not from Republicans, but Congressional Democrats.

Congressional Democrats are raising doubts about whether they would vote to waive a ban on recent military officers serving as Defense secretary for retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who is expected to be presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon.

If Mr. Biden nominates Gen. Austin, Congress would have to vote to bypass a law requiring former active-duty officers to be retired for at least seven years before being appointed defense secretary. Gen. Austin led U.S. Central Command until he retired in 2016.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who spent multiple tours in the Middle East as a CIA analyst, said the Defense secretary post is purposely structured to try to guarantee civilian oversight of the U.S. military.

“After the last four years, civil-military relations at the Pentagon definitely need to be rebalanced,” the Michigan Democrat said. “General Austin has had an incredible career — but I’ll need to understand what he and the Biden administration plan to do to address these concerns before I can vote for his waiver.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said he had great respect for Gen. Austin but that he would not support granting a waiver

House Majority Whip James Clyburn praised the expected pick of Gen. Austin on Tuesday and said the concerns surrounding another waiver are legitimate.

“I think that this is something that’s been done before, and anything that’s been done before can be done again,” the South Carolina Democrat said on CNN.

Retiring Rep. Justin Amash, a Libertarian who left the GOP last year, said it’s a misnomer to use the term “waiver.”

“The law doesn’t provide for any such waiver,” Mr. Amash said on Twitter. “What they’re really saying is that Congress must pass a special law for one person. This is manifestly improper.”

While Congressional Democrats seem to be attempting to say they have a problem with this, they will likely vote for this exemption.  We all know the fallout that would occur if any leaders opposed a Black man being confirmed to the position.