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Former Fort Bragg commander nominated as secretary of defense, would be first Black

— On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden nominated retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon.

During his 40-year military career, Austin also served closer to home – at Fort Bragg.

In 1993, he was a battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. In 2006, he was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps.

In 2010, Austin became commanding general of US Forces in Iraq, and three years later, he became commander of the United States Central Command.

“He has the intellect, the compassion. He cares about the men and women in uniform. He’ll be a great secretary of defense,” said George Breece, a Fayetteville civic leader who served as chairman of the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission and knows Austin well.

But Austin’s selection doesn’t come without some controversy.

There are many who thought the president-elect would select Michèle Flournoy. She was deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy under President Bill Clinton. She also served as undersecretary of defense for policy under President Barack Obama.

Another point of contention is that Austin has only been retired for five years. Like Gen. George Marshall in 1950 and Gen. James Mattis in 2017, he would need a congressional wavier of the seven-year retirement rule in order to be appointed.

Those who know Austin well stand by Biden’s selection.

“America will be better with him. North Carolina and Fayetteville and Cumberland County and Fort Bragg will be greater with him as the secretary of defense,” said Breece.

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