Biden’s Choice For Pentagon Chief Further Erodes a Key U.S. Norm: Civilian Control, by Glenn Greenwald

It’s been a long time since civilians actually controlled the US military. From Glenn Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:

Gen. Lloyd Austin, on the Raytheon Board, is yet another high-level Biden nominee enmeshed in D.C.’s corporatist “revolving door” of legalized influence-peddling.

Then-Commander of US Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin III conducts a media briefing on Operation Inherent Resolve, the international military effort against (IS) Islamic State group, on October 17, 2014, at the Pentagon (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Joe Biden’s pick to be the next Secretary of Defense, according to reports on Monday night, is recently retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, III. The choice of Gen. Austin further erodes the once-sacred American norm that military officials will be barred from exercising control over the Pentagon until substantial time has passed after leaving active-duty military service.

Before Gen. Austin can be confirmed, Biden will need a special waiver from Congress under the National Security Act of 1947. That law, a cornerstone of the post-World War II national security state, provides that “a person who has within ten years been on active duty as a commissioned officer in a Regular component of the armed services shall not be eligible for appointment as Secretary of Defense.” Enactment of the law after the war, explained the Congressional Research Service, was imperative to “preserve the principle of civilian control of the military at a time when the United States was departing from its century-and-a-half long tradition of a small standing military.” A 2008 law reduced that waiting period to seven years, but Gen. Austin, who retired from the U.S. Army only four years ago, in 2016, still falls well within its prohibition.

Biden’s choice of Gen. Austin was somewhat surprising in light of the widespread expectation that he would instead tap long-time Pentagon operative Michèle Flournoy, who would have made history as the first woman to run the Defense Department after serving as Obama’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, the Pentagon’s highest-ranking woman in history.

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