President-elect Joe Biden has chosen retired General Lloyd Austin, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, to be his defense secretary, two sources 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.
Biden contacted Austin over the weekend to offer the job, according to the source, and he agreed. Austin became the lead contender last week, the source said. Politico was the first to report on Biden’s selection of Austin.
Biden will likely announce the retired Army general as his candidate on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. The president-elect is also expected to announce some national cabinet choices on Friday, the source said.
The selection would make Austin one of the most prominent members of Biden’s cabinet and the new administration. The Defense Secretary controls the country’s largest government agency, commanding troops around the world and the complicated inner workings of the Pentagon that make it one of the most formidable bureaucracies in the world.
It also means Austin’s political chops would be put to the test, juggling calls to cut defense spending, as some members of Congress want, while continuing to fund innovative future technologies and prioritizing to the challenges posed by Russia and China – while maintaining military deterrence against Iran, North Korea and ISIS.
Austin has a long history of working in the Pentagon and has worked closely with Biden in the past.
While Vice President, Biden worked with Austin in a variety of positions, most notably when he was Commander of CENTCOM from 2013 to 2016, during which they had discussions on a range of issues, including the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
Prior to that, but still during Biden’s time as vice president, Austin was vice chief of staff of the military and commanding general of US forces in Iraq.
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Jessica Dean reports: