On Dec. 8, it was announced that President-elect Joe Biden has selected Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to be his defense secretary. If this is confirmed, Austin will be the first Black man to hold this title and to lead the Pentagon. Austin has plenty of experience when it comes to the topic of defense. Many believe Biden picked Austin because he knows how to understand crises and is a respected military figure. However, this pick has been controversial among some people.
The person nominated to become defense secretary is often a civilian or has not engaged in active duty for a minimum of seven years. Austin retired in 2016, which means he’s three years shy from meeting that benchmark. The National Security Act of 1947 put this rule into motion, which means that Biden will have to obtain a Congressional waiver in order to have his way. The last time a move like this was made was during the Trump administration with Marine Gen. Jim Mattis. Many believe Congress allowed Trump to do this based on the fact that he did not have a strong national security background following him. However, many are worried about having back-to-back military-led defense secretaries, as this job is supposed to be for civilians. This feeling roots back to just a few years after the National Security Act of 1947 was passed.
In 1950, Harry Truman selected George Marshall to be his defense secretary. Many senators at the time were in agreement over this pick, however, Senator Harry Cain of Washington had concerns. He believed that if an officer was too recently retired that he would still be close to his comrades that were still on active duty. Cain also believed that America would not solve its problems with a soldier leading its defense efforts. In his mind, the country needed a civilian to take on the task of defense secretary. Cain’s opinion goes along with the theme of the National Security Act of 1947, which helps avoid giving the U.S. military too much control while keeping the civilian perspective in mind.
Biden’s selection of Retired Gen. Lloyd is not out of the blue. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has been hinting that Biden should pick a Black defense secretary or choose a Black person to hold a national security title in general. This could have been one deciding factor in Biden picking Austin. Many are also saying that Austin is a safe pick, because it is believed that he would carry out Biden’s plans and that there would be less resistance. Austin’s experience with logistics may also help when COVID-19 vaccines are distributed. Biden also worked with Austin while he was vice president; he knows how Austin works, and he was also no doubt aware that his choice would be history-making.
With Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin being Biden’s pick for defense secretary, a few results will be seen. For one, he will have to shape U.S. policy against national security threats. He will also have to work with the Defense Department in order to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, along with helping with efforts to fight climate change. Even though he has a military background, many believe General Austin should be taking civilian perspective into account. America will just have to wait and see.
By Kaylee Haas, Staff Writer