US President Barack Obama sits next to Commander of Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin. File/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin to be his secretary of defence, two people familiar with the decision said on Monday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black leader of the Pentagon.
As a career military officer, the 67-year-old Austin is likely to face opposition from some in Congress and in the defense establishment who believe in drawing a clear line between civilian and military leadership of the Pentagon. Although many previous defense secretaries have served briefly in the military, only two - George C. Marshall and James Mattis - have been career officers. Marshall also served as secretary of state.
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The nomination of Austin, who headed US Central Command under Obama, could draw fire from some progressive groups given his role in retirement on the board of a number of companies, including weapons maker Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Joe Biden addresses his supporters during an election campaign.
But Biden and Austin developed a working relationship during the Obama administration and the retired general has been advising the transition team on national security issues, one of the people familiar with the decision to name him said.
Biden, who takes office on Jan.20, on Monday also announced key members of his health team to lead the administration’s response to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Biden chose California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to run the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was named as Biden’s chief medical adviser on the virus.
Biden’s first major challenge in the White House will be containing a resurgent COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 283,000 Americans, and finding ways to jump-start an economy still reeling from millions of pandemic-fueled job losses.
He installed Jeff Zients, an economic adviser known for his managerial skills, as coronavirus “czar” to oversee a response that will include an unprecedented operation to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine, coordinating efforts across multiple federal agencies.
“This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on Day One to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking,” Biden said in a statement, adding they would “oversee the safe, equitable, and free distribution of treatments and vaccines.”
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