“Former generals like SecDef should be the exception, not the norm,” said Rep. Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida and former Army Green Beret, said in a twitter message. He praised Ms Flournoy as being qualified on a range of pressing issues, including the defense industrial base and China, and added: “Too bad the appointment of the first woman SecDef is not ‘diverse’ enough for # Biden and House Dems.
Representative Elissa Slotkin, Michigan Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that she had “deep respect” for General Austin, but noted: “Pick another recently retired general to occupy a role designed for a civilian just does not feel. The post of Secretary of Defense is specially designed to provide civilian oversight of the army. “
Other Democrats on the Senate committee, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a veteran, voted against the waiver for Mr. Mattis and are expected to reject one for Mr. Biden’s candidate.
Several academics who have studied civil-military relations, including some who have supported a waiver for Mr Mattis, also say they are opposed to such a move this time around.
“Mattis, like Marshall, was an emergency; it is not, ”said Eliot A. Cohen, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Pentagon official. “The law prohibiting recently serving officers from serving as secretary of defense is strong and there are many good civilian candidates. It is a violation of civil-military standards.
General Austin, 67, is the only African American to have led the Army Central Command, the renowned Combat Command, responsible for most places the United States is at war, including Iraq. , Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria. Mr Biden has spent time during his years as Vice President in the White House Situation Room with General Austin and has had a level of personal comfort with him that he deems essential for the role, said people familiar with his thinking.
The Congressional Black Caucus also lent its support on Tuesday behind the retired general. “Black Americans have sacrificed their lives for this country in every war since the Revolutionary War,” the caucus said in a statement. “The appointment of retired General Lloyd Austin to a post of command and authority over the United States military, just behind the President of the United States, is historic and well deserved.”
Helene Cooper and Michael Crowley contributed reporting.