Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel submitted his resignation to President Barack Obama on Monday.
The resignation apparently came with pressure from the president. The White House reportedly had concerns about Hagel’s effectiveness and his ability to handle the increasingly complex picture in the Middle East.
The AP reports:
The president said he and Hagel had determined it was an “appropriate time for him to complete his service.”
Hagel, a former Republican senator, never broke through the White House’s notably insular national security team. Officials privately griped about his ability to publicly communicate administration policy and more recently questioned whether he had the capacity to oversee new military campaigns against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Hagel is the first high-level member of Obama’s national security team to step down in the wake of both a disastrous midterm election for the president’s party and persistent criticism about the administration’s policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. It’s unclear whether Hagel’s forced resignation signals the start of a broader shake-up of the president’s team; White House officials said it was possible there could be more departures.
Hagel is a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and a Vietnam War veteran. He became an outspoken critic of the Iraq War during President George W. Bush’s second term. Despite his background, Hagel became the first Secretary of Defense nominee to face a filibuster during the confirmation process in the Senate. Democrats complained of rank partisanship while Republicans countered that they simply wanted more time to consider the nomination.
The Associated Press reports that Michele Flournoy is a leading replacement contender. Flournoy was the Pentagon’s top policy chief in President Obama’s first term. If chosen, she would be the first female to lead the Pentagon.
“Flournoy is said to be interested in the top Pentagon job but seeking assurances from the White House that she would be given greater latitude in policymaking than Hagel. Flournoy is also considered a possible defense secretary for Hillary Rodham Clinton if Clinton should win the presidency in 2016,” AP reports.