President-elect Joe Biden was expected to take a historic step and choose a woman to head the Pentagon for the first time, but another name has emerged
President-elect Joe Biden was expected to take a historic step by choosing a woman to head the Pentagon for the first time, removing one of the few remaining barriers for women in the department and the Presidential Cabinet. However, according to reports, Biden has shortlisted another name, namely retired four-star General Lloyd Austin, who would become the first black Secretary of Defense in American history.
Michele Flournoy, a politically moderate Pentagon veteran, was viewed by U. S.. . Officials and political insiders were the first choice for the position, but Axios reported over the weekend that sources near the transition say, “Biden’s top advisors are under pressure to appoint an African American to a prominent cabinet role. ”
Austin served as head of U. . S.. . Central Command would need a waiver from Congress until it retired from the army in 2016 and as a result, to serve as Secretary of Defense, a position intended for civilians. Trump’s first secretary of defense, General James Mattis, also needed a waiver to serve.
Biden’s selection follows a tumultuous Pentagon period in which five men under President Donald Trump held the top positions. The youngest Secretary of Defense was Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Monday after pushing back on issues like troop withdrawals and the use of the military to suppress civil unrest.
If confirmed, Flournoy or Austin face a future that is likely to result in a reduction in Pentagon budgets and possible military involvement in the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.
Democrats have long sought to get a woman to head a department that didn’t open all fighting jobs to female service members until about five years ago.
Tammy Duckworth, the U. . S.. . The Illinois senator, who was seen as a possible Biden runner-up, is also on Biden’s shortlist for the position.
Duckworth, who lost both of his legs when her helicopter came under fire as an Army officer in Iraq in 2004, served as Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs and would become the first Thai-American member of the cabinet.
Flournoy in the wings
Flournoy had been Hillary Clinton’s expected election if she won the 2016 election. Her name popped up early on as the front runner for Biden’s cabinet, said officials, who spoke about personnel matters on condition of anonymity.
59-year-old Flournoy is seen as a steadfast advocate for strong military cooperation abroad. He has worked for the Pentagon on several occasions since the 1990s, most recently as Undersecretary of State for Defense Policy from 2009 to 2012. She is a board member of Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense firm that may raise concerns with some lawmakers. But their moderate views would likely ensure widespread support from both parties in a position that requires Senate approval.
Few other names were mentioned, though former Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson was listed as a possible choice at one point. Choosing a woman would match Biden’s promise to have a diverse cabinet.
She spoke out in favor of American foreign and defense policy, especially last year. She advocates closer international cooperation after four years of a Trump White House that heralded an « America First » policy and was more suspicious and critical of allies.
“Whoever the next president is,” she said in March, “whether it is a second term for Trump or Vice President Biden or whoever it is, one of the main agenda items is going to try to get some of it I think repairing this perception “that America may no longer be a reliable partner. « But I don’t think it will be easy or it will happen overnight. I think it will take a lot of work over several years to restore that confidence and status. ”
She has also warned of drastic, immediate changes.
« One of the most dangerous tendencies is for the new team to use the term ‘rejection’ after a change of administration, especially a change of party. « But to come in and assume everything your predecessors did was wrong, they basically throw the baby out with the bathwater and correct it in a different direction, » she said on a Hudson Institute forum.
Arnold Punaro, a retired two-star general in the Navy and former chief of staff of the Senate Armed Forces Committee under the then Democratic Senator. Sam Nunn of Georgia recently said he considered Flournoy « incredibly well qualified » to run the Pentagon.
The Department of Defense is one of three cabinet agencies – the other being Treasury and Veterans Affairs – that has never been run by a woman. Some of the 28 men who have held the top defense position since its inception in 1947, including three who served in Trump’s administration – Jim Mattis, Esper, and current secretary, Christopher Miller – were military veterans. Flournoy did not serve in the military.
Like Mattis and Esper, Flournoy views China as the most significant long-term challenge to American supremacy on the world stage. In July, she said the United States is losing its military technological advantage over key competitors such as China and that reversing that trend must be the Pentagon’s top priority.
However, it has also warned against giving up the Middle East, advocating a « more modest level of continuous presence » instead. As an example, she has supported a limited role in Afghanistan, which is more focused on combating the threat of terrorism and less on rebuilding the country.
« We want to reduce our engagement, but we want to do it in a way that is wise and protects our interests in the process, » she said of Afghanistan in March, adding that she hopes, « we are not just cutting and run. Trump has been pushing for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the year, but the Pentagon has not yet had an order.
On North Korea, she said on an online forum in October that while nuclear disarmament should remain the ultimate goal, she is « finding it hard to see » that Kim Jong Un will agree to abandon all of its nuclear weapons for what it is such is looking at his regime’s survival map. ”
With regard to Iran, Flournoy has advocated a revised approach to deterring the Islamic Republic by breaking the familiar pattern of sending more American forces to the Gulf in response to Iranian provocations, as the Trump administration did in May 2019 after doing what it deemed credible threats to U. . S.. . Interests in the region.
Flournoy is a co-founder of Westexec Advisors, a consultancy that advises corporate clients and conducts geopolitical risk analysis. She works with a mix of former senior government officials – including Antony Blinken, former assistant secretary of state and currently Biden’s best foreign policy advisor – and military experts like retired Army Gen.. Vincent Brooks who ran U. S.. . Armed forces in Korea 2019.
In 2007, Flournoy helped set up a think tank, the Center for a New American Security.
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Haaretz. com, the online edition of the Haaretz newspaper in Israel, and analyzes from Israel and the Middle East. Haaretz. com offers comprehensive and in-depth coverage of Israel, the Jewish world and the Middle East, including defense, diplomacy, Arab-Israeli conflict, peace process, Israeli politics, Jerusalem affairs, international relations, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian National Authority, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli Business and Jewish Life in Israel and the Diaspora.
Joe Biden, WestExec Advisor, Antony Blinken, Democratic Party, Michèle Flournoy
World News – CA – Biden adds another storied name to its Pentagon shortlist
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