Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.
Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.
Between the lines: Biden's top advisers feel pressure to announce an African American to a prominent Cabinet role. Earlier this week, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a top ally, said he was disappointed more African Americans had not been included in Biden's early selections.
- Austin would be the first Black secretary of defense in American history.
- The former head of U.S. Central Command, Austin retired from the Army in 2016. He would need a congressional waiver to serve, just as President Trump's first defense secretary, James Mattis, required as a recent military retiree.
- Flournoy was never a foregone conclusion for secretary despite some media reporting suggesting the job was already hers.
- The president-elect does not have the same deep, long-term relationship with her as he does, for example, with Tony Blinken, Flournoy's former business partner and Biden's nominee for secretary of state.
But, but, but: Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, remains in contention, as do Johnson, a former Homeland Security secretary, and Duckworth, an Illinois senator and combat veteran of the Iraq War....
- Johnson, who served as the Pentagon's general