The history books will reflect that Joe Biden's very first defense secretary was an appointee of Donald Trump. But David Norquist will not be in the role very long. Politico reports that Biden will ask Norquist, who currently serves as deputy secretary of defense, to run the Pentagon until his own nominee—retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin is confirmed. That process will take longer than usual because Austin requires a waiver from both the House and Senate in order to serve, per DefenseNews. The House Armed Services panel won't have a hearing on the issue until Jan. 21, meaning it will likely be at least a few days before Austin assumes the role.
While retired officers can serve as defense secretary, US law stipulates they must be retired at least seven years before doing so. Austin, who retired as a four-star general in 2016, doesn't meet that requirement, per the New York Times. The newspaper notes that Congress made a similar exception four years ago for Trump appointee Jim Mattis, and not everybody is happy about doing it again. “Civilian control of a nonpolitical military is a foundational principle," says Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “If a waiver for the rule that protects this principle is approved twice in four years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, it starts to become a norm, not an exception.” (Read more defense secretary stories.)