Obama nominates Hagel for Secretary of Defense, Brennan for CIA head
Chuck Hagel (L) and John Brennan (R) listen while US President Barack Obama speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House on January 7, 2013 in Washington. (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)
President Barack Obama nominated two new members to his administration on Monday, endorsing current counterterrorism advisor John Brennan and former Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as CIA director and secretary of defense, respectively.
The president, who will be formally sworn in to begin his second term in office in just two weeks, announced his nominations Monday afternoon from the White House in Washington, DC.
“These two leaders have dedicates their lives to protecting our country,” said Pres. Obama. “I’m confident they will do an outstanding job.”
Both Brennan and Hagel have been rumored in recent days to take on new roles within the Obama administration, but only with Monday’s announcement from the president himself did the news become official. A confirmation battle in the Senate is expected to follow the choice for these key posts, although Pres. Obama asked lawmakers to confirm both men “as soon as possible” after making his announcement.
Hagel, a 66-year-old former Republican senator from Nebraska, will replace the current US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, if confirmed by the Senate. He will also be the first veteran of the Vietnam War to hold the post.
“To this day, Chuck bears the scars and the shrapnel” of service in Vietnam, the president said on Monday.
Accepting the nomination, Sen. Hagel replied, “I am grateful for this opportunity to serve our men and women in uniform again.”
Known as an outspoken critic of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as an opponent of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington and of the possible strike against Iran, Hagel has faced tough criticism for his remarks. On Monday, however, Pres. Obama saluted Sen. Hagel’s “willingness to speak his mind” in Congress, “even if it wasn’t popular.”
“That’s exactly the spirit I want on my national security team,” said the president.
Obama’s administration officials have already dismissed claims of Hagel’s anti-Israel and pro-Iran stance, saying he is “completely in line with the president” on these issues.
White House counterterrorism adviser Brennan was chosen by Obama to replace the former CIA head David Petraeus, who stepped down last November.
Brennan, 57, who has worked in CIA for 25 years and played a key role in the planning of the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden, has been behind the controversial US drone program. He advocated the use of drones overseas, calling targeted killing operations “legal, ethical and wise.”
During Monday’s announcement, Pres. Obama called Brennan“one of our nation’s most skilled and respected” intelligence leaders.
“He understands we are a nation of laws. In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough questions and insists on high and rigorous standards,” he said of his nominee.
Brennan had withdrawn his CIA director nomination back in 2008, as questions about his involvement in enhanced interrogation techniques forced him to assert he is “a strong opponent” of the George W. Bush administration policies. Speaking from the White House on Monday, Brennan said, “Leading the agency I served for 15 years would be the greatest privilege of my life.”