Donald Trump has broken the government. Now is not the time to nitpick over technicalities to deny Joe Biden a chance to fix it.

Confirm Gen. Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense.

Of all the gargantuan tasks waiting for President-elect Joe Biden when he enters office on January 20, rebuilding the hollowed-out federal government may be the most daunting, apart from dealing with the immediate emergency of COVID relief and vaccine distribution.

It has been noted over and over again that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to need the counsel and assistance of people who are intimately familiar with the workings of their respective departments to rebuild morale and detoxify them from Trump's plants so that the federal government can once again function in service of the American people rather than of one man who fancies himself king. This is why Biden's choices for the incoming administration have been laser focused on core competency and knowledge of federal bureaucracy.

That's why Biden's picks of people like Tony Blinken to lead the State Department and Alejandro Mayorkas to steer Homeland Security - both former deputy secretaries of their respective departments - was so crucial. That's what makes picks like Janet Yellen at Treasury, Neera Tanden at the helm of the Office of Management and Budget, and the return of Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General not just good choices in their own light, but also the right fits for a time when even the basic functions of government are looking to emerge from the severe stress test of the Trump years.

It's also why Joe Biden's choice of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense is equally crucial. No agency has suffered more at the hands of Donald Trump and his cronies than the Pentagon, and it will require an unprecedented, seamless combination of military and civilian leadership to heal the wounds Donald Trump has not only inflicted over the past four years but also just since the election, firing his own hand-picked Defense secretary and installing his cronies at every level.

The principle of civilian control of the country's military is an important one, and the law requires individuals serving as Secretary of Defense to have been out of the military for at least seven years. But in recognition of extraordinary circumstances, the law also allows Congress to waive this requirement. That is exactly what happened when Donald Trump appointed retired Gen. Jim Mattis to lead the Pentagon, even though no actual extraordinary circumstance had existed back then, except for the fact that America had just elected an extraordinarily malicious, unpatriotic, and incompetent president.

If there was an improper use of the waiver, that happened in 2017 under Donald Trump, when no urgency presented itself for such an extraordinary step to be taken. But urgent circumstances exist now, and Congress should not seek to repent for its past mistakes by refusing to do the right thing now. The time for Congress - and the media - to have been concerned about precedence was then, not now. Those grumbling about Congress having to grant the second waiver for a former general to head the Pentagon - especially those that supported the waiver for Trump's nominee - should keep it to themselves, and allow the next administration to do the job of fixing what Trump has demolished.

Gen. Austin not only rose through the ranks of the military to become only the sixth African American four star general in our nation's history, he has served important diplomatic functions within the military as both the general President Obama charged with implementing the withdrawal of American troops from Operation Iraqi Freedom and as the head of Central Command until his retirement. As career military, he has intimate familiarity with the inner workings of the Defense Department, and as the first Black General to command an entire war theater, the diplomatic skills necessary to match President-elect Biden's vision of returning to a multilateral security strategy.

These are extraordinary times. It is critical that the Pentagon be led by someone who not only has the confidence of the incoming president but the bureaucratic and institutional pedigree to fix what Trump has broken.

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