News broke on Monday that Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator, will resign as Secretary of Defense, though he will remain in the job during the wait for his successor to be confirmed. Reports are saying that there was tension between Hagel and the White House which led to his decision to resign. Senator John McCain has states his opinion that the issues of policy and presidential interference forced his fellow Republican out of the job. As of yet, however, President Obama has not announced his pick to be Hagel’s successor leaving it open to speculation.
In a ceremony on Monday, Hagel announced his resignation flanked by the president and the vice-president. It was a somewhat stilted appearance, but the Defense Secretary’s address was heartfelt and humble. He described his time in leadership as a service and as “the greatest privilege of my life.” Hagel arrived in the job with a stellar military record, including the award of the Purple Heart, and he leaves the job with that record only enlarged by his time as secretary. President Obama himself described him as “no ordinary secretary of defense;” high praise from the man who reportedly kicked him out of the job.
Secretary Hagel will remain in the job until his successor is announced and confirmed by the Senate, meaning that he may be in for a long wait. According to the GOP and to certain Democrats, it is unlikely that any choice from the president will be considered in the Senate before 2015. Even then, the Republican controlled Congress will likely give a hard time to any of President Obama’s choices.
One possible choice, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, has already stated that he has no interest in the job. His spokesperson told questioners that, “He has made it very clear that he does not wish to be considered.” That leaves at least two other possible candidates, both of whom have strong records in the Department of Defense (DOD). Michele Flournoy who is a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy could possibly make history by being the first female Secretary of Defense. She served in the Clinton administration and under Obama in his early years as president has a strong managerial background, a must for anyone running a large organization like the DOD. Ash Carter, a man with similar qualifications to Flournoy and a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, is also a possibility.
There will be challenges ahead for the man or woman President Obama chooses to replace Hagel. One such obstacle may be John McCain himself who will soon be the chairman of the Armed Services Committee which oversees the Department of Defence. Obama’s former rival for the presidency may soon be a stumbling block to his defense goals. No doubt Senator McCain who has strong views on defense and security will relish the opportunity to have a say in the proceedings. As it is, Chuck Hagel may have a long time to wait before he is officially resigned, out of the job and able to sit back and watch his successor suffer as he did.
By Lydia Bradbury