WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is making his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief, taking stock of a military as it pivots from the turmoil of the Trump years and focuses to an unusual diploma on domestic and internal points.
Biden planned to meet Wednesday afternoon with senior civilian and military leaders and address the Pentagon crew.
As defense leaders await direction from Biden on conceivable contemporary approaches to overseas safety threats, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is treating the coronavirus pandemic as a top priority and ordering unusual assessments of how to root out sexual assault and extremism within the military’s ranks.
Austin himself is within the spotlight after profitable Senate confirmation as greatest the third just lately retired military officer to lead the Pentagon. Critics have wondered whether his appointment, which required a congressional waiver, weakens the concept of civilian management of the military.
Austin hurried to surround himself with a core of civilian assistants, together with Kelly Magsamen, a defense coverage knowledgeable and conventional Pentagon official who’s now his chief of staff. The deputy defense secretary is Kathleen Hicks, a coverage knowledgeable and the first woman to grasp Senate confirmation for that place.
Austin spent 41 years within the Army, retiring in 2016 as a four-star general after heading U.S. Central Command. For the duration of Biden’s years as vice chairman within the Obama administration, he labored with Austin on winding down U.S. involvement in Iraq, where Austin was the top commander in 2010-11.
For the duration of the Trump administration, the Pentagon persisted a lack of top-flight civilian talent, in part because of instability at the top. Trump had two Senate-confirmed defense secretaries, as properly as three secretaries who held the goal in an acting capacity. Morale suffered and some senior positions went unfilled.
Biden had regarded as choosing Michele Flournoy to lead the Pentagon; she would have been the first woman in that job. Instead he picked Austin, who’s the first Black defense secretary and in Biden’s seek is the legal particular person at a time of evolving safety threats and persevering with chance from the coronavirus.
On his first day in place of job, Austin issued a message to the force that emphasized his dedication to discovering ways the military can relieve the authorities transfer “further and faster” to fight the pandemic. Already there are more than 24,000 National Guard members offering logistical give a boost to for the vaccine program and giving as many as 50,000 shots per day.
Last week, the Pentagon announced this may deploy more than 1,100 troops to five vaccination facilities at the quiz of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This marks the first wave of increased military give a boost to for the national vaccination campaign. The military is preparing to deploy the first team of about 222 service members to a vaccination center in California, and it says it is ready to deploy four similar teams to assorted facilities when FEMA is ready. FEMA has asked the Pentagon to provide as many as 10,000 troops to staff 100 facilities, nonetheless Austin is approving the teams incrementally as the locations are identified.
Austin also is pushing for coverage adjustments to account for the outcomes of climate change on military missions, as properly as the penalties of crude weather occasions on domestic military bases.
Austin is preparing to address assorted Biden priorities, together with an assessment of how to deal with the national safety challenges posed by China’s modernized and more assertive military. He has said he intends to visit the Asia-Pacific area as early in his tenure as conceivable.
The Pentagon is participating in an administration assessment of the peace deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban one year ago. The deal requires the United States to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by May, a deadline the Biden administration is reassessing.
Austin also is launching a broad evaluation of how U.S. forces are positioned around the sector. In announcing his “global force posture evaluation” last week, he said this may assess the military “footprint, resources, strategy and missions.”
On the house front, Austin has inherited the aftereffects of the Jan. 6 stand up on Capitol Hill. On Inauguration Day, there were about 26,000 National Guard troops in Washington offering safety, although the quantity as of Tuesday had dropped to 6,200. The quantity is anticipated to topple to about 5,000 by the top of the month, with the remainder long gone by mid-March.
In addition to his ordered reviews of sexual assault programs and extremism within the ranks, Austin has launched a evaluation of all defense advisory panels as part of a transfer to purge several dozen individuals that were last-minute appointments within the final weeks of the Trump administration.
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