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Biden nominates female generals initially held back over concerns of Trump’s reaction, report says

Danielle Zoellner
·3-min read
<p>Pentagon officials reportedly held back from nomination two female generals over fears of Trump’s reaction</p> (AP)

Pentagon officials reportedly held back from nomination two female generals over fears of Trump’s reaction


President Joe Biden has nominated two female generals for four star commands after their promotions were previously held back under the Trump administration, according to a New York Times report.

General Jacqueline Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lieutenant General Laura Richardson of the Army were both first considered for a promotion back in the fall of 2020, as senior leaders of the Pentagon all agreed they should be given four-star commands.

Despite the positive reviews from Pentagon leaders, Mark Esper and General Mark Milley, Donald Trump’s joint chiefs of staff at the time, reportedly held back from asking the White House about the promotions due to who was in charge at the time.

The two leaders worried “any candidates other than white men for jobs mostly held by white men might run into turmoil once their nominations reached the White House,” according to The New York Times.

Mr Esper was also feuding with the president at the time, so he worried that any nomination coming from him would be tainted in the eyes of Mr Trump.

Read more: Follow live updates from the Biden administration

“They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought DOD [Department of Defense] was playing politics,” Mr Esper said. “This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.”

Six days after the 2020 presidential election in November, Mr Trump announced he was firing Mr Esper from his post.

Pentagon officials at the same time held back from announcing their recommendations until after the November election because they wanted to see if Mr Biden would win. If he did, they believed Mr Biden and his aides would have a higher likelihood of accepting their recommendations for the promotion over the Trump administration.

The Pentagon officials bet paid off, as this weekend Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that Gen Van Oust and Lt Gen Richardson would both be promoted to four-star commands.

Lt Gen Richardson was nominated to run the US Southern Command in Florida, while Gen. Van Ovost was nominated to run the US Transportation Command, Mr Austin announced.

Christopher C Miller, the former Acting Secretary of Defense under Mr Trump, denied that gender played a role in the Pentagon’s decision to hold back the nominations until the former president was out of office.

“It was about timing considerations, not that they were women,” he said.

Former Trump administration members also told The New York Times that Congress likely played a part in the Pentagon officials withholding nominations until January, as it would be unlikely lawmakers would consider nominations as the year came to a close. So the Pentagon instead decided to wait until the new term in January to submit recommendations.

According to the report, the two women would have still been recommended by the Pentagon for the positions even if Mr Trump won re-election. But the officials believed that they would likely face a smoother nomination process under the Biden administration versus the Trump administration for a variety of reasons.

Mr Biden and Mr Austin had the opportunity to suggest other people for the positions instead of what the Pentagon recommended, but they ultimately decided that both Lt Gen Richardson and Gen Van Ovost would be best for the roles. The two generals were both vetted and evaluated over a series of several months.

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