Lloyd Austin

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President-elect Joe Biden has selected retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of defense, a source familiar with the decision told CNN on Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense.

In addition to serving as commander of United States Central Command, Austin previously served as the vice chief of staff of the Army.

Politico was first to report on Biden's selection of Austin. The Biden transition team declined to comment to CNN.

Austin would need a congressional waiver to be confirmed for the civilian post because he retired from active-duty service only four years ago. Federal law requires seven years of retirement from active duty before taking on the role.

Though the use of the waiver is rare, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis received a waiver from Congress in 2017 to serve as President Donald Trump's defense secretary. Some Democrats in Congress at the time expressed concerns about setting aside the precedent of maintaining civilian leadership in the military, but the waiver was ultimate approved by both chambers, allowing Mattis to serve in the position until his departure in December 2018.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general who was in charge of military operations in the Middle East under President Obama, as his defense secretary, according to people familiar with the matter, which would make him the first Black defense chief in U.S. history.

Gen. Austin’s nomination would represent the second time a retired general has been chosen to lead the department in recent years, after retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis. In addition to Senate confirmation, Gen. Austin would be required under law to obtain a congressional waiver to serve in the post, as he has been out of uniform for less than seven years.

Gen. Austin didn’t respond to requests for comment, and Mr. Biden’s transition team didn’t respond to questions. Mr. Biden told reporters Monday that he planned to name a defense secretary nominee on Friday.

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense, according to three people with knowledge of the decision. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon.

In picking Austin, Biden has chosen a barrier-breaking former four-star officer who was the first Black general to command an Army division in combat and the first to oversee an entire theater of operations. Austin’s announcement could come as soon as Tuesday morning, people familiar with the plans said Monday.

Austin, who also ran U.S. Central Command before retiring in 2016, emerged as a top-tier candidate in recent days after initially being viewed as a longshot for the job. Michèle Flournoy, Obama’s former Pentagon policy chief, was initially viewed as the frontrunner, but her name was notably absent from Biden’s rollout of key members of his national security team two weeks ago.

Biden had been under growing pressure to nominate a Black person to be his defense secretary in recent weeks. He chose Austin after also considering former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for the job, several people familiar with the discussions said.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has chosen retired General Lloyd Austin for defense secretary, Politico reported on Monday, citing three people with knowledge of the discussions. 

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