17:26 GMT23 January 2021
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    While US President-elect Joe Biden has positioned his forthcoming administration as more diverse and progressive than ever before, the figures he has picked to fill Cabinet and other senior positions continue to boast deep national security state and corporate ties.

    Biden’s transition team announced Wednesday Biden would nominate Kathleen Hicks to be the US Defense Department’s second-in-command. Hicks will be the first woman to hold the position if confirmed. He also said longtime aide Colin Kahl would be his pick for under secretary of defense for policy, a third-most powerful position in the Pentagon.

    “These respected, accomplished civilian leaders will help lead the Department of Defense with integrity and resolve, safeguard the lives and interests of the American people, and ensure that we fulfill our most sacred obligation: to equip and protect those who serve our country, and to care for them and their families both during and after their service,” Biden said in a statement. “Dr. Kath Hicks and Dr. Colin Kahl have the broad experience and crisis-tested judgment necessary to help tackle the litany of challenges we face today, and all those we may confront tomorrow”.

    Hicks has been leading Biden’s Pentagon transition team and has served in several Pentagon positions in the past, including as deputy under secretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces and later as principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, both under former US President Barack Obama, to whom Biden was vice president.

    ​“It would be a privilege to return to the Pentagon as Deputy Secretary of Defense and work alongside” Lloyd Austin, Colin Kahl “and the incredible DoD total workforce to advance the Biden-Harris administration's defense priorities,” she tweeted Wednesday.

    However, her position as Number 2 behind Austin, a retired US Army general and former US Central Command chief, will be somewhat awkward. While serving as a witness for Democratic lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on whether to grant a waiver to James Mattis, a retired US Marine Corps general whom Trump had nominated as secretary of defense, Hicks spoke out against allowing recently retired generals to head the Pentagon, a position traditionally occupied by civilians. However, she supported a waiver for Mattis as a “rare, generational” exception. Austin seeks the same waiver now as was granted to Mattis in 2017.

    Presently, Hicks is the senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a hawkish Washington, DC, think tank that has fanned the flames of US conflict with China, Russia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Venezuela and more. 

    For example, in 2017, Hicks co-authored a report warning that many Western governments weren’t properly positioned to oppose “Russia’s rebellion against Western-prescribed rules, norms and values,” and in January of 2018, she sat on the advisory board behind the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy Report. The review announced a fundamental shift in US geopolitical strategy, noting the Pentagon’s conclusion that “inter-state strategic competition” with Russia and China, “not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.”

    Kahl boasts similarly impressive security state ties. Assigned to review the National Security Council for Biden’s transition team, he was also deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East during the first Obama administration and later became Biden’s national security adviser from 2014 to 2017. He is presently Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at Stanford University and co-director of the university’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

    According to an unnamed Biden transition team official who spoke with The Hill, Kahl worked closely with Austin while the latter was Central Command chief from 2013 to 2016, traveling to Iraq 16 times amid the US’ war against Daesh.

    Some of Biden’s other historic picks for his administration include his vice president, Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, first Black person and first South Asian person to hold the position; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), who would be the first Native American secretary of the interior; Pete Buttigieg, who as transportation secretary would be the first openly gay Cabinet member; Neera Tanden, who would be the first woman of color and first South Asian person to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Austin, would would be the first Black secretary of defense. He is also rumored to be considering Darrell Blocker as the first Black CIA director.


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