Pentagon & Congress

Biden plans to announce defense secretary pick this week

President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that he expects to announce his pick for the next defense secretary this Friday, nearing an end to weeks of speculation over a key member of his national security team.

The comments were made by Biden to pool reporters as he traveled around Wilmington, Delaware. The former vice president has spent recent days meeting with his transition team and speaking with potential political appointees as he prepares for his inauguration on Jan. 20.

On Nov. 23, Biden announced “key members” of his foreign policy and national security team, including Tony Blinken as his pick for secretary of state, Avril Haines as his pick for director of national intelligence, and John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate issues.

But his defense secretary pick was not among the announcements that day. That led to speculation of concerns surrounding the presumed front-runner for the post, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy.

In recent days, lawmakers and progressive activists have pushed for the incoming commander in chief to consider retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, former head of U.S. Central Command, and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to lead the Pentagon.

On Sunday, in an interview on CNN, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., said that Biden needs to choose a Black defense secretary or attorney general nominee.

“I think it would be great if he did,” she said. “And for defense secretary, there’s two individuals that the Congressional Black Caucus would like to put forward: Lloyd Austin and Jeh Johnson.”

But Flournoy, rumored to be former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s pick for the Cabinet post if she had won the 2016 election, still has significant support among Democrats.

Earlier on Monday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., gave a full endorsement of Flournoy for the Defense Department post, and said he has already stumped for her to the transition team.

“I think Michele Flournoy is hands down the best qualified person for the job,” he said. “That does not mean that she’s the only person that could do the job … But I think she is uniquely qualified, having her experience as under secretary of policy and the work that she has done since.”

Biden also told reporters he expects to announce his attorney general pick sometime this week.

Reporter Joe Gould contributed to this story.

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