Questions swirl over Austin's limited experience

In particular, national security experts raised concerns about Austin’s lack of experience handling what many consider to be the most pressing challenge facing the United States for years to come: an increasingly aggressive China.

“This suggests quite loudly to me that Biden doesn’t take hard power, and the China military threat as seriously and urgently as we need to,” said Elbridge Colby, a former defense official and a lead author the 2018 National Defense Strategy that laid out the Pentagon’s pivot from counterterrorism to great power competition.

Despite making strides to address the Chinese threat during the Trump administration, the U.S. military continues to be surprised by the pace and sophistication of Beijing’s military buildup, Colby noted. In some ways the U.S. is already falling behind, he added.

“Lloyd Austin has an extremely distinguished military career — but to me that’s not really the issue. What we need is someone who already is at the forefront of thinking and leadership on Asia and China, on aerospace and maritime power, and on technology,” Colby said. “That’s what not Austin’s background brings to the table, and we’re way beyond the point where we can have someone who doesn’t have that.”