Who Will Succeed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel?

| by Edward Arnold

Yesterday, Chuck Hegel resigned from his position as Secretary of Defense. Today, we ask the question: Who will succeed him?

Several news outlets have poised three candidates as frontrunners to become Obama's next Pentagon Chief. Whoever is chosen, they will be the fourth defense secretary during Obama's presidency.

First is Michele Flournoy. Between 2009 and 2012, she served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and was a top advisor to former defense secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. Already the highest ranking woman ever to serve at the Pentagon, she would be the first female Secretary of Defense in U.S. history.

Second is Aston Carter, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense. He most recently has been the Chief Operating Officer for the last two secretaries of defense, Hagel and Panetta.

Other options inlcude current Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, or Army Secretary John McHugh.

Both Flournoy and Carter have been in the private sector for the past year and are the leading candidates for the job. 

Stephen Biddle, an adjunct senior defense fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke on the two candidates.

“A big part of being Secretary of Defense is managing the largest human institution on the planet, and they are exceptionally well-prepared for that," Biddle said. "In many ways, it's not a fair thing to ask of somebody who hasn’t run a big organization to walk into something of this almost unimaginable size and scale and complexity and scope and dysfunction from day one."

That is exactly what happened to Hagel. Previously a Republican Senator from Maryland and a Vietnam war veteran, he had a difficult time handling defense budget cuts while trying to adjust to an increasingly unstable strategy in Syria and Iraq. Multiple reports acknowledge that Hagel did not voluntarily resign, but rather the Obama administration forced his hand to step down in order to pursue a new direction.

"He was given a thankless task of an underfunded Defense Department, growing threats, and intrusive White House micromanagement," said Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a statement Monday.

Hagel was supposed to serve as Secretary of Defense for the remainder of the Obama administration. President Obama will announce a nomination that must be confirmed by the Senate. Until then, Hagel will stay on the job. 

Sources: Wall Street Journal, New York Times / Photo Credit: Associated Press