Washington, DC, United States (4E) – U.S. President Barack Obama will likely select former Sen. Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary and he could make the formal announcement as early as next week.
White House officials say that the president has not yet chosen his new Secretary of Defense or made any offers to anyone for the post.
People in the beltway familiar with Hagel, however, say that all signs point to the former Republican senator filling the position.
Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate is expected to be a testy one given questions on his support to Israel, a key U.S. ally. Hagel has also made comments in the past that stirred strong criticism from gay rights groups.
President Obama defended Hagel from criticisms during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” in December, saying that the Nebraska-born former lawmaker is a “patriot,” adding that his record qualifies him for the job even as he is yet to make a decision for the replacement.
Should Hagel be chosen by the president, he is expected to be warm with the idea of pulling out 66,000 U.S. troops overseas, which the White House supports.
Last month, U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Obama’s preferred candidate for Secretary of State, withdrew from consideration after facing strong opposition from Senate Republicans.