US President Barack Obama may name his new defense secretary in December, which is much sooner than originally expected. He may choose to announce his pick for secretary of state at the same time.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will resign after President Obama is inaugurated for a second time in January, The Weekly Standard reported earlier in November.
Clinton has not chosen a specific date to step down. According to her spokesman Phillipe Reines, she will not officially resign until her successor is chosen, and she realizes that may take a while, possibly even beyond the President's inauguration.
Meanwhile, Obama's defense secretary Leon Panetta has declared he does not plan to stay for a second term, but he has remained mum on his plans for departure, The Associated Press reports. There are many who believe Panetta won't step down from his post until the middle of 2013, but the President still wants to be prepared.
Among those being considered to fill Panetta's role are former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA).
Other names for consideration include former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. John Kerry desires the position of Secretary of State more, The AP reports.
According to a November 12 Washington Post article, Senator Kerry was believed to "covet" the role of Secretary of State, but senior officials were nearly certain the post would go to UN ambassador Susan Rice.
Recently, however, Rice has come under fire for comments she made regarding the September 11 attack that killed US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
Rice said the attack was initially believed to be a reaction to an anti-Muslim film, "Innocence of Muslims," which was made in the US, AlJazeera reports. It was later realized this was a terrorist attack unrelated to the film.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is hoping to dash Susan Rice's hopes of becoming Hillary Clinton's replacement, The Guardian reports. He has vowed to "do everything" to block Rice.
Former GOP presidential candidate Jon Hunstman feels McCain and other republicans criticizing Rice are blowing the issue out of proportion, the Huff Post reports.
Huntsman, who served as US ambassador to China under Obama said it was impossible for authorities to have enough intelligence to know who was responsible for the attack, therefore, Susan Rice could not immediately declare it was an act of terror.
Few republicans are willing to see things Huntman's way, however. She has personal investments in companies that do business with Iran, which have also come under scrutiny, The Boston Globe reports.
Senator Kerry has more Senate support to fill the Secretary of State vacancy. It is still unclear who President Obama will choose, but it is very likely John Kerry or Susan Rice will be the next US Secretary of State. A source close to him says he definitely wants Senator Kerry to serve in his cabinet.
Chuck Hagel is viewed as a likely choice for the defense secretary position because he currently co-chairs the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, which provides advice on the intelligence committee.
According to The Cable, Hagel is moderate when it comes to foreign policy. He has given public support for many of President Obama's foreign policy decisions, while sharply criticizing many of President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Hagel once referred to the invasion of Iraq as an "absolute replay of Vietnam."
Another top name being considered is Michele Flournoy, who served as Leon Panetta's undersecretary before resigning earlier this year. She was Obama's foreign policy advisor during his re-election campaign, The AP reports. If appointed, Flournoy would be the first woman to lead the Defense Department.
An announcement for who will the vacant posts could come as early as next week.