The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 7, 2013

Obama taps Hagel for Pentagon, Brennan for CIA

— WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite Republican misgivings, President Barack Obama announced Monday he will nominate former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary, calling him "the leader our troops deserve." He also chose White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Controversy surrounds both choices, but the president called on the Senate to quickly confirm both.

"The work of protecting our nation is never done. We've got much to do," Obama said at the East Room announcement. "My most solemn obligation is the security of our people."

Obama announced his choice of Hagel, a political moderate who represented Nebraska in the Senate, even as critics questioned the pick over issues including Hagel's views on Israel and Iran.

Facing a potential fight to get Hagel confirmed by the Senate, Obama praised his independence and bipartisan approach, and said that Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, understands war is not an abstraction. He also praised Hagel, 66, as one who could make "tough fiscal choices" in a time of increasing austerity.

Brennan, 57, a 25-year CIA veteran, is a close Obama adviser who has served in his present post for four years.

The president praised him as one of America's most skilled and respected intelligence professionals. Obama said Brennan and Hagel understand that "the work of protecting our nation is never done."

Brennan withdrew from consideration for the spy agency's top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to harsh interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.

Hagel, in brief remarks, thanked Obama "for this opportunity to serve this country again, especially its men and women in uniform. ... These are people who give so much to this nation every day."

Hagel voted for U.S. military involvement in the Iraq war at first but later opposed it. He broke ranks with other Republicans to support Obama for president in 2008.

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