Revamping his national security team, US President Barack Obama today chose former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Defence Secretary and nominated his top counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, who was involved in the planning of the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, as the next CIA Director.
If confirmed by the Senate, 66-year-old Hagel would replace Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
Brennan, 57, a former CIA analyst and CIA station head in Saudi Arabia before he joined the 2008 Obama Campaign and then his administration, would replace Gen (rtd) David Petraeus, who resigned last year citing extra-marital affairs.
"To help meet the challenges of our time, I'm proud to announce my choice for two key members of my national security team, Chuck Hagel for secretary of defence and John Brennan for director of the Central Intelligence Agency," Obama said in an announcement made in the East Room of the White House.
Obama hoped that the Senate will act on these confirmations promptly.
"When it comes to national security, we don't like to leave a lot of gaps between the time that one set of leaders transitions out and another transitions in. So we need to get moving quickly on this," Obama said.
With today's announcement, Obama has made three top nominations to his national security team.
Before Christmas, Obama had nominated Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his next Secretary of State, to replace Hillary Clinton.
In his remarks, Obama said over the past four years, his Administration has met responsibility of national security, by ending the war in Iraq and beginning a transition in Afghanistan, by decimating the al-Qaeda core and taking out Osama bin Laden, by disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.
Noting that the work of protecting the nation is never done, Obama said that he still has a lot to do when it comes to national security.
"We have still got much to do, ending the war in Afghanistan and carrying for those who have borne the battle, preparing for the full range of threats, from the unconventional to the conventional, including things like cyber security, 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.
Currently Chairperson of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board Incumbent, Hagel served as Nebraska Senator for two terms from 1997 to 2009, during which he was member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Chuck Hagel's leadership of our military would be historic. He'd be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary of defence, one of the few secretaries who've been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department," Obama said.
Observing that Hagel represents the bipartisan tradition that is needed in Washington, the US President said his next Defence Secretary, recognises that American leadership is indispensable in a dangerous world.
"I saw this in our travels together across the Middle East. He understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends. As a successful businessman, he also knows that, even as we make tough fiscal choices, we have to do so wisely, guided by our strategy, and keep our military the strongest fighting force the world has ever known," Obama said.
Highly appreciative of Brennan, his Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counter terrorism, Obama said in him the men and women of the CIA will have the leadership of one of the nation's most skilled and respected intelligence professionals.
"A 25-year veteran of the CIA, John knows what our national security demands: intelligence that provides policy makers with the facts, strong analytic insights, and a keen understanding of a dynamic world," Obama said.
Obama said Brennan, as his top counter-terrorism adviser, has been highly successful in the fight against terrorism.
Obama Names Hagel Defence Secy, Brennan CIA Chief
Lalit K Jha/Washington
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