U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has called his pick for defense secretary, retired Central Command chief Gen. Lloyd Austin, a “trailblazing leader” with “deep experience … in critical Pentagon roles.” But there were two words noticeably absent from Biden’s announcement of his choice: “China” and “Indo-Pacific.”
Biden used a statement from his transition team and an op-ed in the Atlantic magazine Tuesday to explain his surprise choice of Austin, who would be the nation’s first Black defense chief.
“Throughout his lifetime of dedicated service — and in the many hours we’ve spent together in the White House Situation Room and with our troops overseas — General Austin has demonstrated exemplary leadership, character, and command,” Biden said in the statement.
“He is uniquely qualified to take on the challenges and crises we face in the current moment.”
For Biden, the most pressing challenge will be the domestic response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has torn through the U.S., leaving more than 285,000 dead. Tapping Austin, who oversaw the U.S. drawdown in Iraq as commander of American forces in the Middle East, would fill a crucial gap as the administration looks to the military to help with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.