Biden still searching for defense secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has announced several member of his top national security team but has not yet named a defense secretary, and his transition team’s search for this top member of his Cabinet is still underway, according to multiple Democratic sources.

There are several candidates under consideration already. Former Under Secretary of Defense for policy Michele Flournoy is the leading candidate and would be the first woman to serve in the role. Her business partner at global strategic advisory firm WestExec Advisors, Antony Blinken, is Mr. Biden’s choice to be secretary of state.

Former Homeland Security Secretary and former general counsel for the defense department Jeh Johnson is also on the president-elect’s list, as is Lloyd Austin, the former head of U.S. Central Command, according to multiple Democratic sources. 

Austin was the top U.S. commanding general on the ground in Iraq during the major Obama-era troop drawdown, and Mr. Biden met with Austin when he visited Iraq in 2011. Austin was also involved in the national security briefings that Mr. Biden received from experts outside government when he was not yet receiving the President’s Daily Brief. 

However, if Austin were selected, he faces a couple of hurdles. He sits on defense contractor Raytheon’s board of directors. And he would also require the same kind of waiver Congress granted James Mattis when he was nominated to be defense secretary by President Trump. In order to serve as defense secretary, Congress would have to vote to exempt him from a law that says that military officers must have ceased active duty for seven years before serving as Pentagon chief.

Austin or Johnson, if selected, would be the first African American defense secretary.

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