Hagel likely Obama pick for US defense secretary
ReutersWASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama appeared poised on Friday to pick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. defense secretary and the announcement may come early next week.
January 6, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Sources on Capitol Hill and in the national security community said all signs were pointing to Hagel as Obama's choice to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The choice would likely set up a confirmation battle in the Senate over whether Hagel strongly supports key U.S. ally Israel. Gay rights groups have also complained about some of Hagel's past remarks, which were seen as disparaging to them.
However, if Obama were to back down from picking Hagel, it would be the second embarrassment for him, after his preferred candidate for secretary of state, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, withdrew from consideration in the face of determined opposition.
The White House insisted Obama had not yet made a final decision on Hagel, but a source close to the situation said the White House had signaled to Hagel's camp that he remained Obama's leading candidate for the post.