by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 13, 2012
US President Barack Obama is considering former Republican senator Chuck Hagel for the job of defense secretary as he moves towards appointing his second-term cabinet, sources said Thursday.
Obama, who has been close to Hagel since they served together in the Senate, has however not made a final decision on whether to send his friend to the Pentagon to succeed Leon Panetta, an administration source said.
A White House official separately also said that no nominations to Obama's cabinet were expected this week, following a report by Bloomberg News that Hagel was the "likely" nominee and had passed a vetting process.
A decision by Obama to pick a Republican to lead the Pentagon would be seen as an attempt to show bipartisanship, although Hagel is seen as a centrist on foreign policy who has broken with his party on several key issues.
Obama is also wrestling with who to choose as his secretary of state, in a wholesale remaking of his national security team in his second term, with a top contender, UN ambassador Susan Rice, under fierce fire from Republicans.
The president must also find a new head of the CIA, after the former director, retired general David Petraeus, resigned after admitting to an extra-marital affair.
Hagel, a decorated combat veteran who branded then President George W. Bush's Iraq troop surge strategy as the worst foreign policy blunder since Vietnam, served two terms as a Nebraska senator before leaving in 2009.
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