The moves have sparked concerns that Biden may further undermine the delicate balance between civil and military authority after Trump’s norm-busting presidency included enlisting multiple retired officers to fill top civilian positions and even seeking a congressional waiver to appoint retired Gen. Jim Mattis as Defense secretary — a position traditionally reserved for a civilian.
Already, Biden’s transition team has appointed at least four retired generals or admirals and a former top enlisted Marine. And POLITICO reported on Monday that retired Gen. Lloyd Austin is his pick to be the next Defense secretary.
The concerns reflect the difficulty Biden’s team will encounter as it tries to live up to the standard Democrats set during their four years of Trump criticism. Even if Biden is not eschewing norms the way Trump did, his team’s choices will be scrutinized for any evidence the incoming president is straying from the traditions he has pledged to uphold.
“I think it’s one more example of the pernicious trend of civilians taking shelter behind the legitimacy of uniforms,” said Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has worked in the Pentagon, State Department and on the National Security Council. “The civilians on his defense team deserve more confidence from him than this portrays.”