If President-elect Joe Biden is expecting senators to focus on the historic nature of his nominee to lead the Pentagon, he might be in for a insolent shock.

Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, an imposing West Point graduate and devout Catholic, is expected to face tough questions about his views on innumerable pressing global matters, from China to climate change impacts, that go well beyond the military realm and with which he has far less experience and little public record. Senators at his confirmation hearing will likely also grill him about his tenure as the top officer in the Middle eastern and his business ties in civilian life.

And while demonstrating him as America’s first Black secretary of Defense would shape biography, Biden’s choice of Austin has already set off more hand-wringing than any other Biden pick — much of it focused on the fact that he will require another waiver from Congress, merely four years after it reluctantly held one to Jim Mattis, another recently retired general tapped to run the Department of Defense.

Austin’s selection, like many of Biden’s top picks, appears to have been based heavily on his late personal connection with the president-elect.

Then-Vice President Biden got to know Austin during the Obama administration when he was producing Iraq policy and Austin was a commander in the Middle East. The two expend “countless hours” together, in the field and in the White House Situation Room, Biden wrote in a Tuesday piece for the Atlantic explaining his decision .

Austin likewise developed a close relationship with Biden’s late son, Beau, when he provided on Austin’s staff in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, said one source close to the discussions, who requested not to be listed to discuss private matters. Austin and the younger Biden attended Mass together, sitting side-by-side almost every Sunday, and they maintained in touch after Beau returned from his deployment.

“The fact is, Austin’s countless fortitudes and his intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense and our authority are uniquely matched to the challenges and crises we are confronted with, ” Biden wrote. “He is the person we need in this moment.”

Biden likewise hailed Austin’s critical role in “the largest logistical functioning undertaken by the Army in six decades, ” the Iraq drawdown — an experience that will serve him well as Defense secretary overseeing the military’s distribution of Covid-1 9 vaccines.

But a multitude of new questions risen on Tuesday about Austin’s 41 -year record in the Army and academic qualifications he would bring to a much more expansive portfolio as the top civilian overseeing the Department of Defense.

In special, national security experts raised concerns about Austin’s lack of suffer touch what numerous consider to be the most pressing challenge facing the United Mood for years to come: an increasingly aggressive China.

“This shows fairly loudly to me that Biden doesn’t take hard strength, and the China military threat as gravely and urgently as it is essential to, ” said Elbridge Colby, a former defense official and a lead-in scribe the 2018 National Defense Strategy that laid down by the Pentagon’s pivot from counterterrorism to great power competition.

Despite making strides to address the Chinese threat during the Trump administration, the U.S. military continues to be surprised by the pace and sophistication of Beijing’s armed buildup, Colby mentioned. In some routes the U.S. is already falling behind, he added.

“Lloyd Austin has an extremely distinguished armed busines — but to me that’s not really the issue. What we need is someone who previously is at the forefront of thinking and leadership on Asia and China, on aerospace and maritime capability, and on engineering, ” Colby said. “That’s what not Austin’s background brings to the table, and we’re way beyond the stage where we can have someone who doesn’t have that.”

Bilal Saab, another former Trump-era defense official and Middle eastern Institute professional, too raised questions about the gap in Austin’s background.

“I am wondering how his lack of programme knowledge will influence his ability to translate the president’s political priorities, ” he said. “I am concerned about his lack of Indo-Pacific background, which is our brand-new foreign policy priority.”

Austin himself has indicated that he realise great power competition as the primary national questions of safety and foreign policy challenge.

“We’re seeing shifts in the character of world competition among the U.S. and our opponents, ” he told students at the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 2018. “While we continue to be the world’s sole superpower, our antagonists are propagandizing back. They are building capabilities. They are constricting the gap between us and them, both in terms of technology and combat know. And this especially holds true for society states such as Russia and China.”

“For example, ” he contributed, “Russia’s involvement in Syria. They like to say publicly that they’ve been helping us to fight the bad people, the Islamic State. But the truth of the matter is they were, and are, the bad guys.”

Austin’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is likely to focus on his oversight of the wars in the Middle eastern as the head of U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016. His advice about how many troops Biden should keep in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict zones in the region are likely to be of paramount interest amid President Donald Trump’s 11 th-hour unit withdrawals.

Biden praised Austin’s oversight of Central Command , noting that when the Islamic State developed as a gunman threat in Iraq and Syria, he and Obama leaned heavily on Austin, who “designed and executed the campaign that ultimately beat back” the terrorist group.

But many military officials picture his last command as a sporadic age in his career, which included stints at the top officer in Iraq and the sin chief of staff of the Army.

Austin faced particularly tough questions in 2015 about the U.S. military’s role training forces in Syria to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria during the country’s civil war, acknowledging that the U.S. consume some $500 million but qualified only a handful of fighters.

The late Sen. John McCain interrogated Austin about the U.S. military’s fight against ISIS in a memorable 2015 hearing that at some points left the general at a loss for words.

“I must say, I’ve is a component of this committee for nearly 30 years, and I have never heard testimony like this, never, ” McCain said.

Austin’s appearance before the committee on Syria “was one of the most awkward I ever watched, ” one former Senate Armed Business Committee aide to McCain told POLITICO. While McCain propped Austin in high praise, the senator was “clearly frustrated with and disappointed in his lead at CENTCOM, ” the aide said, adding that other lawmakers felt the same.

“It was a sad encapsulation of an incoherent Syria policy marred by a long string of military failures stirred painful by General Austin’s apparent inability to confront the reality of the situation and present a cogent room forward, ” the onetime aide said.

Another cloud hanging over the dominate at the time was allegations that Central Command downplayed intelligence reports on security threats posed by the terrorist group and decorated a brighter picture of the progress of U.S. military efforts.

Austin’s command was cleared in an inquiry by the Defense Department’s auditor general in 2017.

But it was Austin’s early viewpoint on the gunman group that made over big swaths of Iraq and Syria that contributed President obama to regretfully label ISIS the “jayvee team, ” news reports said.

Austin told Obama in 2015 that the group was a “flash in the pan, ” according to allegations published in The Atlantic magazine in 2016. A spokesperson for Austin denied he ever said that.

What the general has been up to the last four years is also very much on the minds of progressive groups and government protectors who have concerns about his corporate ties.

After he retired, Austin connected the board of directors of Raytheon Engineering, one of the largest Pentagon contractors. He is also on the board of Nucor, the largest American steel producer, as well as health care company Tenet.

Public records show that he leads his own consulting firm, Austin Strategy Group, LLC, located in Great Falls, Va ., but the firm has little real public attendance and its purchaser index is not publicly available.

He is also a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a philanthropic foundation.

John Warner, the onetime Republican chair of the Armed Business Committee, said on Tuesday that one consequence of appointing a retired general is that his profession is relatively easy to assess. “It’s an open record. It’s basically public, ” he said of Austin’s armed record.

But Warner said in an interview that he would like to know more about Austin’s activities since leaving the military.

“Men who have worked their space up the ranks like that have had to really ingratiate themselves, ” Warner, who also acted as secretary of the Navy, said. “You’ve got to be careful of the old-fashioned axiom’ you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’. That croaks for[ their relationships with] civilians and often protection companies.”

The bigger questions are likely to center on his approach to the nearly countless issues that will be his responsibility if he becomes secretary of Defense.

Saab, for example, said he wonders about Austin’s ability to handle the large Pentagon bureaucracy after decades in the field.

“Above all else, can he finagle a huge bureaucracy such as the Pentagon, ” he said. “That requires a unique ability and nothing in his background shows that he has that capability.”

And he will have to develop a more sophisticated worldview on longer term challenges to U.S. national certificate, including nontraditional menaces such as climate change and pandemics.

“This guy was a recently retired captain for U.S. Central Command, so very well informed on terrorism and activities in the Middle eastern, ” said Guy Snodgrass, a onetime Navy officer who provided as primary speechwriter for Mattis from 2017 to 2018. “But how will he be able to shift gears into the much more strategic issue of the Indo-Pacific? ”

Snodgrass, who is now CEO of Defense Analytics, accepts the similarities between Austin and Mattis, who was also a onetime commander of U.S. Central Command, are cause for concern.

“There was a talent and brain drain that occurred under Mattis because he was such a militaristic lead, ” he said. “That I think is going to be a challenge for Austin. Mattis still saw everything through the lens of a militant commander.”

Read more: politico.com