By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
President Obama rounded out his second-term national security team January 7 by nominating former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
With the recent nomination of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry to become the next secretary of state, Obama has completed the major appointments for the crucial national security team during his second and final four-year term. All three nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The three nominees, along with Vice President Biden, would perform crucial roles in providing timely advice and helping to shape and implement the president’s national security strategy.
“The work of protecting our nation is never done, and we’ve still got much to do: ending a war in Afghanistan and caring for those who have borne the battle, preparing for the full range of threats, from the unconventional to the conventional, including things like cybersecurity, and within our military, continuing to ensure that our men and women in uniform can serve the country they love no matter who they love,” Obama said during a White House ceremony announcing the nominations.
In nominating Hagel, Obama reached across the political aisle to select his next secretary of defense. Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, served in the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 2009. He is currently a professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund W. Walsh School of Foreign Service, chairman of the Atlantic Council and co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. While serving in the Senate, Hagel served on the Foreign Relations Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; the Select Committee on Intelligence; and the Committee on Rules and Administration.
Hagel, if confirmed by the Senate, would become the first former U.S. enlisted serviceman and first Vietnam War veteran to become secretary of defense, according to the president. Hagel, twice wounded, is an Army veteran.
“Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve,” Obama said at the White House. “Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic.”
“And Chuck recognizes that American leadership is indispensable in a dangerous world. He understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends,” Obama added.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin said in a statement January 7 that he regarded former Senator Hagel as “well-qualified” to be the next defense secretary. Levin and his committee will oversee Hagel’s nomination. Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the armed services panel, said he would seek full clarification of Hagel’s policy positions during the confirmation hearing, which hasn’t been scheduled.
Hagel would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
John Brennan has served as the president’s deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism for the past four years. He is a 25-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and is regarded as one of the president’s closest advisers.
“A 25-year veteran of the CIA, John knows what our national security demands: intelligence that provides policymakers with the facts, strong analytic insights and a keen understanding of a dynamic world,” Obama said at the nomination ceremony. “John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security and law enforcement agencies.”
“John has an invaluable perspective on the forces, the history, the culture, the politics, the economics, [and] the desire for human dignity driving so much of the changes in today’s world,” Obama added.
Brennan would succeed former CIA Director David Petraeus, who resigned in November.