Joe Biden picked a Defense Department chief he knows he can trust, so naturally the left is whining. Yet Lloyd Austin is clearly qualified and would also make history as the first African American in the role.
Gen. Austin, 67, was the first black head of US Central Command, responsible for America’s troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Then he was the Army vice chief of staff before retiring in 2016 as a four-star general after 41 years of service.
Since he’s only been retired four years, he’ll need a congressional waiver: US law requires the defense secretary to be out of the military for seven years. The only two waivers yet granted went to real giants: Gen. Jim Mattis in 2017 and Gen. George Marshall in 1950.
Progressives’ other gripe is that in retirement Austin joined the board of Raytheon, a big Pentagon contractor, which has generated lots of hysteria about the “military-industrial complex.” The left, you see, wants a defense chief who’ll go along with eviscerating the defense budget.
But Biden has the right to choose a defense secretary who’s earned his trust. As he wrote at The Atlantic, the prez-to-be has worked with Austin for years, including in the Situation Room. More, “Austin knows the incredible cost of war and the commingled pride and pain that live in the hearts of those families that pay it.”
And Austin has run highly complex logistical tasks like the US pullout from Iraq — useful when the Pentagon will play a vital role in vaccine distribution.
Bottom line: In this case, at least, Biden looks to have chosen wisely.