WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is President Barack Obama’s pick to be the next defense secretary.
That’s the word from a senior Obama administration official and from a source close to the process for selecting a successor to retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the imminent nomination.
Hagel is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and a former Nebraska senator.
His path to Senate confirmation might not be completely smooth. Former colleagues say he’ll face tough questions about his stands on Israel and Iran, among other issues.
The Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Sunday he is reserving judgment on whether to support former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the front-runner to be the next defense secretary, and predicted that his former colleague would face serious question about his stands on Iran and Israel.
President Barack Obama, who returned to the White House on Sunday after his vacation in Hawaii, may round out his new national security leadership team this coming week, with a nomination for Pentagon chief expected and a pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency possible.
A congressional aide said Senate Democrats have been given a heads-up from the White House that Hagel’s selection is imminent. The aide was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said any defense nominee must have “a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat, and the importance of having a robust military.”
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