, WASHINGTON, Jan 7 – US President Barack Obama on Monday will announce his picks to head the CIA and Pentagon, as he assembles his national security team for his second term, officials said.
Officials said Obama would nominate White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as CIA director to replace David Petraeus and former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to succeed Leon Panetta.
“Brennan has the full trust and confidence of the president,” a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.
“Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA.”
The US official said Brennan, 57, was selected because of his “career of service and extraordinary record,” including decades of service at the US spy agency, and will make “an outstanding director of the CIA.”
“Since 9/11, he has been on the front lines in the fight against Al-Qaeda,” the official said.
“Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues, and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA,” said the official, adding that Brennan — who would take over at the spy agency after the resignation of Petraeus following a sex scandal — “has the full trust and confidence of the president.”
Brennan — a 25-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran, is an Arabic-speaking Middle East expert who once told reporters when asked about his work ethic: “I don’t do down time.”
Trained as a spy, Brennan rose quickly as a counter-terrorism analyst and manager in the Near East and South Asia branch of the agency’s intelligence directorate. By 1995, he was executive assistant to George Tenet, the agency’s deputy director at the time who later became the agency’s longest-serving director.
He also served as interim director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to August 2005.
Hagel, 66, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is known for a fiercely independent streak and a tendency to speak bluntly.
Despite the fact that Hagel is a fellow Republican, heavyweights in his party have accused him of hostility toward Israel and naivety on Iran, auguring a tough nomination process ahead.
The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, in the past has praised the Nebraska former lawmaker, who left his Senate seat in 2009, lauding his “clear voice and stature on national security and foreign policy.”
His recent remarks have been more tepid, however, and on Sunday he said on US television that he was committed to giving Hagel “a fair hearing like any other nominee.”
If confirmed by the Senate as Pentagon chief, Hagel will have to manage major cuts to military spending while wrapping up the US war effort in Afghanistan and preparing for worst-case scenarios in Iran or Syria.
Administration appointments are often tense affairs in the United States as the confirmation hearings provide senators with opportunities to turn away unwanted candidates or score cheap political points, or both.
In another major change to his revamped foreign policy and security team, Obama last month announced that he has chosen US Senator John Kerry to replace the outgoing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.