Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned Monday after nearly two years in the job, and speculation has emerged that Hagel’s exit was more coerced than voluntary. President Obama thanked him for his work, adding that Hagel had told him that it was “an appropriate time to end his service.” Hagel will remain at his post until a successor is both nominated and confirmed, a process that will likely take months.
Hagel had previously served as a Republican Senator from Nebraska and was widely regarded as a foreign policy mentor to then-Senator Obama. He entered the job after a series of shaky confirmation hearings, and in the eyes of the administration, did not successfully address the challenge of reducing the size of the U.S. military while also maintaining its strength. Critics in the Obama administration do not look favorably upon Hagel’s tenure, and the President reportedly initiated talks with Hagel that ultimately led to his dismissal.
With Hagel gone, the Obama administration no longer includes a Cabinet Secretary who identifies as a Republican. Critics of the move also argue that Hagel was merely a scapegoat as the National Security Council and other White House officials begin to take further control of American Defense Policy.
The search for Hagel’s replacement has already begun. Initially, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michéle Flournoy was considered a leading candidate, but she recently withdrew herself from consideration. Former Senator Jack Reed also stated that he is not interested in the job. Current Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, former Pentagon official Ashton Carter, and current Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson are among those who have received media attention as potential successors.