Tags: Joe Biden | Middle East | lloyd austin | secretary | defense | cabinet | senate

Possible Biden Pick for Pentagon Chief Could Face Tough Hearing

Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, updates reporters at the Pentagon
Retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Tuesday, 01 December 2020 03:33 PM

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, former commander of U.S. Central Command and an Iraq war Silver Star recipient, is reportedly on the list to be the nation's first Black secretary of defense — but he would likely face a tough confirmation process, Military.com reported.

Axios first reported Austin is in the mix of potential candidates to lead the Pentagon.

Progressive House Democrats, however, have urged Joe Biden to avoid a defense secretary choice with ties to the defense industry.

In a Nov. 12 letter to Biden, Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said, "we write to request that the next secretary of Defense have no prior employment history with a defense contractor," in an apparent reference to former Defense Department official Michèle Flournoy, who was also reportedly on Biden's list, Military.com reported.

She is on the board of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and cofounded the consultancy WestExec Advisors, which has defense contractors as clients. The other cofounder was State Department official Tony Blinken, Biden's choice for secretary of state.

Austin, 67, a West Point graduate, also has ties to the defense industry, Military.com reported. Months after retiring in 2016, he joined the board of defense contractor Raytheon.

And despite his service record, Austin still could face opposition in a Senate confirmation hearing. Military.com noted he gave much-criticized testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2015, then chaired by late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The hearing focused on a program to train Syrian rebels for the fight against the Islamic State, on which the U.S. had already spent $42 million — and Austin gave a shaky account of how the money was being spent, Military.com reported.

A frustrated McCain told Austin, in 30 years on the Armed Services Committee, "I have never heard testimony like this, never."

"I have never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the reality of every outside expert as what you are saying," McCain told Austin, Military.com reported.

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Retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, former commander of U.S. Central Command and an Iraq war Silver Star recipient, is reportedly on the list to be the nation's first Black secretary of defense, but he would likely face a tough confirmation process, Military.com reported.
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Tuesday, 01 December 2020 03:33 PM
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