Chuck Hagel, the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as the nation’s Defense Secretary, is reportedly leaving his post after nearly two years on the job. Based on preliminary assessments, this is not a “spend more time with the family” departure – this appears to be more of a dismissal.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down amid criticism of the president’s national security team on a series of global issues, including the threat posed by the militant group known as ISIS.Senior defense officials confirmed to NBC News Monday that Hagel was forced to resign.The officials say the White House has lost confidence in Hagel to carry out his role at the Pentagon. According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”
In early 2013, Hagel struggled through confirmation hearings, but the Nebraskan overcame criticism from his former GOP colleagues in the Senate to join President Obama’s cabinet.
His tenure at the Pentagon seems rather brief, but by modern standards, it was about average.
But what’s striking about Hagel’s sudden departure are the circumstances. The New York Times reported that Obama held a series of meetings with his Defense chief over the past two weeks, and the president asked for the secretary’s resignation because Hagel’s skills simply did not meet the task at hand.
The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.
As Charlie Savage noted, there have also been quiet concerns in recent weeks about Hagel delaying the release of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
It’s worth noting, however, that the resignation does not take effect immediately. There may be agreement within the administration that the current Defense Secretary is the wrong person for the job, but he will reportedly stay on at his post until the Republican-led Senate confirms Obama’s new nominee.
Hagel’s departure will reportedly be announced later today at a White House event. It’s obviously a little early to say with confidence who his successor might by, though Michèle Flournoy, the former under secretary of defense, who was in the running early last year, is already finding her name in circulation.