US may get first ever black Defence Secy in Biden admin (Ld)

US President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin as the Defence Secretary, a move that is likely to face headwinds from Congress and Defence grandees who believe there must be clearly demarcated lines between civilian and military leadership of the Pentagon.

If confirmed, the retired general would become the first black Defence secretary even as Biden goes about the task of putting together what he calls the most diverse team of senior administration officials in American politics.

Austin, 67, is a 1975 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and served in the US military for 41 years. Austin retired in 2016, and he would need a congressional waiver to serve as Defence Secretary. The legal requirement is that the chief must be out of uniform for at least seven years.

When US Congress created the position of Defence Secretary in 1947, it prohibited recently retired military officers from holding the position. Many Defence Secretaries have served in the military, but mostly for brief periods.A

However, George C. Marshall and James Mattis were career officers. Mattis had also been out of active service for less than seven years when appointed to lead Defence in the Trump administration.

Civil rights groups have been pushing Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to pick more Black Cabinet members. Politico, which broke the story, reports that Biden offered Austin the job on Sunday.