Updated: March 1, 2021
U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to name Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general who headed military operations in the Middle East under President Barack Obama, as his defense secretary, multiple news outlets reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
If confirmed, Austin will be the first Black defense chief in U.S. history, and will lead the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty troops.
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General Lloyd J. Austin III, 67, is the only African-American to have headed U.S. Central Command, the marquee combat command, with responsibility for Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria – most of the places where the United States is at war, noted the New York Times.
The publication said General Austin is known “as a strong battlefield commander but is less known for his political instinct”, adding that he has “sometimes stumbled in congressional hearings, including a session in 2015 when he acknowledged under testy questioning, that the Defense Department’s $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters had gone nowhere.”
Still, General Austin, who retired as a four-star general in 2016 after 41 years in the military, is respected in the army.
He is “one of the rare Black men to crack the glass ceiling that has kept the upper ranks of the military largely the domain of white men,” The Times added.