Citing three individuals with knowledge of the decision, Politico reported late Monday that Biden had reportedly selected Austin to serve as the next leader to the US Department of Defence.
The report also notes that Biden had been considering Jeh Johnson, who previously served as the homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2017, but that Austin was ultimately picked as a result of Johnson's ties to expanding family detentions and deportations, among other concerns.
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) December 7, 2020
A former defence official who spoke to the outlet noted that the Biden team felt that Austin was by far the safest choice for the job when compared to Johnson and Michèle Flournoy, a defense policy adviser who was also a contender for the position.
"There would be less tension [with Austin]," the unidentified official said. "Maybe less disagreement … the relationship would be smoother.”
The revelation comes just hours after reports emerged earlier in the day that Biden would be officially announcing his pick on Friday. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MO), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, had earlier remarked to Politico that while there is a lot of interest in seeing the makeup of the Biden administration, there ultimately needed to be more African Americans in the Cabinet.
Despite views of Austin being the "safe" pick among the candidates, he still faces an uphill battle ahead of his potential confirmation, since he presently does not meet the requirement that states a military official must be out of the armed forces for a period of at least seven years before being appointed to such a position.
Congressional lawmakers previously issued a waiver on the requirement for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; however, there is now a growing sentiment against issuing such clearance. The seven-year rule has been implemented in an effort to ensure civilian control of US defence.