POLITICS

Chuck Hagel Nomination: Obama Announces Former Senator As Secretary Of Defense Pick

01/07/2013 01:16 pm ET | Updated Jan 07, 2013

President Obama has nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.

Hagel, a moderate Republican, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who represented Nebraska in the U.S. Senate for two terms. He will replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has held the post since 2011.

"Chuck Hagel is the leader our troops deserve," Obama said while announcing his nomination on Monday. "Chuck understands that war is not an abstraction ... It is something that we do only when it is necessary."

As Obama pointed out, Hagel will be the first Vietnam veteran to lead the Pentagon.

The Associated Press relays background on Obama's decision:

To political and defense insiders, Obama's preference for Hagel makes sense.

The former senator shares many of the same ideals of Obama's first Pentagon leader, Republican Robert Gates. When Obama became president in 2009, he asked Gates to remain as defense secretary. Both Hagel and Gates talk of the need for global answers to regional conflicts and an emphasis on so-called soft power, including economic and political aid, to bolster weak nations.

"A Hagel nomination signals an interest in, and a commitment to continuing a bipartisan approach to national security," said David Berteau, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said Hagel's two terms in the Senate, before he retired in 2009, spanned the latter years of the post-Cold War military drawdown and the post-Sept. 11 buildup. "From a budget point of view he has seen both ends of the spectrum and that gives him a good perspective to start from."

Some of Hagel's former Republican colleagues have signaled that a tough confirmation process is ahead, citing concerns over his criticism of the Iraq War, his support for talks with Iran, and his stance on Israel.

“This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during a CNN interview Sunday. "I don't know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon -- little, if any. So I think it's an incredibly controversial choice, and it looks like the second term of President Obama is going to be an in-your-face term."

During Monday's event, Obama also announced his nomination of counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

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