Biden set to pick ret. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for secretary of defense

December 8, 2020: Joe Biden will reportedly nominate retired Army General Lloyd Austin for secretary of defense.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Electoral College will meet on December 14, 2020, to vote for the next president of the United States.

In 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.


  • Biden has reportedly selected retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his nominee for secretary of defense. If nominated, he would require a congressional waiver. Federal law prohibits a commissioned officer from filling this position if he or she is appointed within seven years of active duty. Austin would also be the first Black secretary of defense in U.S. history. 
  • Georgia election officials recertified the state’s presidential results for a third time on Monday following a recount that showed Biden maintained his lead by 12,000 votes. 
  • Tuesday is the safe harbor deadline for states to settle any presidential election disputes and determine its electors. Congress must accept the electoral votes from any state that meets this deadline as conclusive. The Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14.
  • Ned Foley, the director of the election law program at Ohio State University, said the safe harbor provision means “that Congress will not second-guess or question the state’s own final determination. It gives the states the opportunity to chart its own destiny, if you will, with the respect to its electoral votes. Because if they make that final determination by that deadline, that’s the answer and Congress promises not to question it.” He also noted, however, that there may be no way to enforce it.

Transition in Context

Biden’s latest formal Cabinet announcement of Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services places him ahead of former President Obama’s (D) timeline for this position by 3 days and behind President Trump’s (R) by 13 days.

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