Biden’s Pick for Defense Secretary Unlikely to Be in Job on Administration’s First Day


At the same time, the Biden team has been slow to get the general’s financial disclosure forms to Capitol Hill for vetting. Such delays caused the confirmations of many early Trump administration officials to linger.

Many lawmakers from both parties have balked at having another former general leading the Pentagon in a nation that has a long tradition of civilian control of the military, one that has been severely tested under the Trump presidency.

While Congress approved a similar measure four years ago for Mr. Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine officer, many are loath to do it again.

“Civilian control of a nonpolitical military is a foundational principle, written into our Constitution, and absolutely essential to our democracy,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who announced on Friday that he would vote against a waiver. “If a waiver for the rule that protects this principle is approved twice in four years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, it starts to become a norm, not an exception.”

Several civil rights groups as well as many members of the Congressional Black Caucus have argued that even those members of Congress who declined to give Mr. Mattis the nod should not block what would be the first Black defense secretary in the nation’s history, and move swiftly to approve his waiver.

“As the first Black secretary of defense, General Austin, who has broken barriers throughout his career, would lead the most diverse military in our nation’s history,” Representative Anthony G. Brown, Democrat of Maryland and the vice chairman of the House committee, said in an email.

“Our country faces immense national security challenges,” he added. “From a shocking assault on the Capitol and our democracy, an unprecedented cyberattack on government institutions and rising global threats, President-elect Biden will need a national security team in place ready to tackle these threats and renew American leadership. Secretary-designate Lloyd Austin will be instrumental to that effort. The House and Senate should move forward as quickly as possible to vet and debate a waiver for General Austin.”