Gen Charles Q. Brown listens during an event at the White House for his nomination to be the next chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff.—AFP
Gen Charles Q. Brown listens during an event at the White House for his nomination to be the next chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff.—AFP

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden picked Air Force chief Gen Charles Q. Brown as the top US military officer on Thursday, elevating a former fighter pilot with experience in the Pacific at a time of rising tension with China.

Brown, whose long-anticipated appointment is subject to Senate confirmation, would be only the second Black officer to become chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Colin Powell two decades ago.

The move follows Biden’s appointment of Lloyd Austin to become the first Black US secretary of defence, the top civilian position at the Pentagon.

A senior Biden administration official said Biden had accepted Austin’s recommendation to pick Brown for the position, believing he “understands the strategic challenges the United States faces around the world”. “He helped build and lead the air campaign against ISIS. He is deeply versed in the challenges posed by the PRC (Peoples Republic of China). And he has a strong understanding of our Nato allies perspectives and capabilities,” the official said. ISIS is another name for the militant Islamic State group.

Upon Brown’s confirmation, Black Americans would hold the top two positions at the Pentagon for the first time — a major milestone for an institution that is diverse in its lower ranks, but largely white and male at the top.

Self-described introvert

Brown is a self-described introvert whose public persona contrasts sharply with the outgoing chair, Army General Mark Milley, a loquacious Boston native whose tenure included both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Last year, speaking at a security forum, Brown joked that his wife would ask: “Did you use all your words at work today?”

In the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police, Brown recounted his experiences in an emotional video posted online.

He said how, during his Air Force career, he was “often the only African American in my squadron or, as a senior officer, the only African American in the room” and of wearing the same flight suit as his squadron with wings pinned on his chest yet being asked if he was a pilot. Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023

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