With the 2021 presidential inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden over a month away, the chances of an Auburn Tiger marching on Washington are more likely than ever.
According to multiple reports, U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) is under consideration to lead the Department of Defense under the Biden administration.
Austin, who serves on Auburn University’s Board of Trustees, was placed on a shortlist by former Vice President Joe Biden to serve as the next defense secretary last Friday. The news broke shortly after the Trump administration announced it would begin the process of a formal transition through the General Services Administration.
Austin is reportedly on a list of finalists to head the Pentagon that also includes Michele Flournoy and Jeh Johnson.
While Austin serves on the highest board at the University, his background places his roots deeper into the Plains and showcases his highly decorated military experience that has placed him in the running for this esteemed position within the Biden administration.
Born in Mobile and currently residing in Great Falls, Virginia, Austin is a retired U.S. Army general with nearly 41 years of military service. As the commander of U.S. Central Command from March 2013 through March 2016, he was responsible for the 20-country Central Region that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He was also the Combined Forces Commander in Iraq and Syria.
Austin has extensive operational experience, having commanded troops in combat at the 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-star levels. During his last deployment, he served as a 4-star general and commander of United States Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through December 2011. He later served as the 33rd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.
Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. and holds a master's degree in education from Auburn University and a master’s degree in business management from Webster University.
His first term on the Auburn University Board of Trustees began upon his confirmation by the Alabama Senate on February 9, 2017 and will expire on February 8, 2024.
Austin received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn University and the Distinguished Graduate Award from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and a Trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. With a very decorated background, Austin has been awarded five Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit.
Since the release of the candidates for the defense secretary position, Biden has steadily moved forward with naming much of his national security team, which includes Tony Blinken for Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan for National Security Adviser, Arvil Haines for Director of National Intelligence, Alejandro Mayorkas for Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Linda Thomas- Greenfield for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and John Kerry for special presidential convoy on climate. Noticeably absent from the list was the name of the Secretary of Defense nominee.
While Austin stated he can’t say much on the matter, he did say that he accepts the consideration for the position with high honor and gratitude.
“It’s just unbelievable to me,” Austin said. “I mean as a child, you have dreams and never in my wildest would I have imagined working alongside a president.
“It would be an honor to be nominated for the position, God willing.”
Selecting Austin for the position, while beneficial to the Biden administration in terms of keeping the support of prominent Black Democrats, will serve as a historical feat for the administration, as Austin would potentially be the first Black defense secretary in American history.
While the Biden team mulls its decision, where race, experience and Biden’s level of comfort will all come into play, Austin wants the community to know that he will remain humble during the process.
“I’m more than grateful for the nomination,” Austin said. “There are only a few chances in a lifetime to be a part of history and I may be closer to that than ever before. That’s very very exciting for my family and I.”