Biden reportedly mulls historic nominees for defence secretary

John T. Bennett
·3-min read
<p>Joe Biden reportedly has a shortlist for defence secretary.</p> (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Joe Biden reportedly has a shortlist for defence secretary.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

President-elect Joe Biden reportedly is considering three candidates to run his Pentagon that would be historic picks, potentially installing the first woman or Black person as defence secretary.

Mr Biden already has announced his nominees for secretary of state, director of national intelligence and homeland security secretary, among other national security Cabinet-level posts. But he has yet to decide on a defence secretary, though an announcement is expected in December.

Two Black veterans of the US national security realm and one woman are in the running. The president to whom Mr Biden was vice president, Barack Obama, mulled nominating the first female to run the Pentagon, but never pulled the trigger.

Each time, Michelle Flournoy – a former No. 3 at the Defence Department as policy chief – has been passed over. Could it happen again?

She reportedly was Mr Biden’s top candidate. That is, until members of the Democratic Party’s most progressive wing raised concerns.

Ms Flournoy helped launched a think tank, the Center for a New American Security, that has ties and takes money from the defence sector. She also helps run a consulting firm, WestEx Advisers, that has not released its clients but is widely believed to do the same.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, a former Pentagon chief counsel, also is in the running, according to CNN.

If defence sector ties are behind progressives’ gripes about Flournoy, then Mr Johnson could have to dissuade then that his spot of the Lockheed Martin board is no big deal. That firm is the largest American weapons manufacturer.

But Mr Johnson knows the issues well, and as former DHS head could help Mr Biden also reach out to immigrant communities to rebuild trust after four years of Donald Trump’s hardline policies like family separation and his border barrier.

Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star general who commanded US Central Command during the Obama administration, also is said to be on Mr Biden’s shortlist.

But he is a board member of Raytheon, also a major maker of combat gear.

Both he and Mr Johnson are black, meaning their nomination and possible confirmation by the Senate would break a barrier amid the ongoing “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Biden aides say the timing of the Pentagon pick should not be viewed as a delay. The bossi is just still deciding, they claim.

But it is no secret in Washington that the progressive want a change inside the E-Ring of the five-sided building.

“Corporate access to the White House and federal agencies would be more restricted than under Trump. Progressive elements within the Democratic Party are already working to limit the hiring of political appointees with industry ties in the new administration — just as they did with considerable success during the Obama years,” Loren Thompson, a defence analyst who also takes funding from large weapons manufacturers, wrote recently.

“So a Biden presidency could present significant challenges for the aerospace sector, particularly those parts of it that do business with the government,” he added. “President Trump has generally been a friend of aerospace, but some of his trade and security policies have potentially devastating consequences for the sector’s long-term competitiveness.”

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