If confirmed, Austin, 67, a retired four-star Army general and former head of the U.S. Central Command, will be the first Black American to fill the position.Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Sept. 16, 2015.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images fileDec. 8, 2020, 2:08 AM UTCBy Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube and Dartunorro Clark
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as the nation’s defense secretary, according to two people familiar with the decision.
If confirmed, Austin, 67, a retired four-star Army general and former head of U.S. Central Command, will be the first Black American to fill the position. He was also the first Black American to lead Central Command, which oversees U.S. military in the Middle East and parts of Africa, Central Asia and South Asia.
As Biden continues to fill out his Cabinet, he is under pressure to name Black Americans to top posts. Biden has promised to make his Cabinet the most diverse in history.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, told CNN in an interview on Sunday that Biden needed to pick a Black American for top cabinet positions, like defense or the attorney general, noting that Austin was one the top contenders backed by the Congressional Black Caucus, which she chairs.
Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate, and she will become the nation’s first Black vice president, in addition to being the first woman and Asian American to hold the job.
So far, Biden has made sevearl choices for cabinet secretaries, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who is Hispanic, Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, whose parents immigrated from Cuba to the U.S., and his pick for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, who will be the first woman to hold the job. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman, will serve as Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, a position that is often included in the Cabinet under Democratic presidents.
Biden faces pressure, however, to select people who not only will be “accepted by all elements of the Democratic Party,” as he recently said, but who also stand a reasonable chance of getting confirmed by a Senate that will be in GOP hands if Democrats don’t win both of next month’s Georgia runoffs.
The heads of legacy civil rights groups say they are struggling to participate in Biden’s transition, vying to be included as the incoming administration tries to make good on a promise to Black voters to be the most diverse in history. Prominent civil rights advocates say they haven’t been consulted about key cabinet picks and are frustrated they haven’t met with Biden since the election.