If approved by Congress, four-star General Lloyd Austin, 67, would be the first African American to lead the Pentagon. He would need a waiver since he is less than seven years from military service. Veteran Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy had been widely considered front runner for the job. Under the Obama presidency, Austin was head of the Central Command which covers the Middle East, Central Asia and part of South Asia. He was the architect of the US-led offensive against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Gen Austin has a reputation for strong leadership and for avoiding the media.