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article imageDefense secretary resigns, could signal U.S. government shakeup

By Nathan Salant     Nov 25, 2014 in Politics
Washington, D. C. - Speculation about a shakeup at the highest levels of the U.S. government security apparatus were rampant Monday after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced his resignation.
Hagel, the former Republican senator whose departure from the Obama White House had been rumored for weeks, was said to have been frustrated by a lack of independence in running the defense department.
The Vietnam veteran from Nebraska had been on the job for just under two years, and promised to remain in his post until a successor was nominated and confirmed, according to the Washington Post newspaper.
Many U.S. news reports said Hagel had been pressured by the White House to resign, even though he and the president were known to be close friends since Obama served in the Senate from 2005 to 2008.
Both Obama and Hagel were leading critics of the controversial Bush administration that occupied the White House from 2001 to 2008.
Others attributed Hagel's resignation to continuing disputes about the direction of U.S. defense policy with other Obama administration officials, and with the president himself.
Hagel had opposed releasing prisoners from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for example, and Obama's recent decision to bolster remaining U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
But defense policy has been a sore point for the administration, with critics blaming the president for failing to respond adequately to a series of international crises, including the Russian Federation's takeover of Crimea, the brutal rise of the Islamic group ISIS and the use of chemical weapons by Syria.
Hagel had been expected to help raise the administration's profile in world affairs but failed to do much for the president's slumping popularity.
“The bottom line is that Chuck Hagel took over at possibly the worst time anyone has seen in the last 20 years,” Vikram Singh, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense under Hagel, told the newspaper.
“Given the state of affairs, I think he’s done a creditable job . . . I think that he chose to be the quiet warrior and some people wanted a cheerleader,” Singh said.
But Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is expected to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee in January when Republicans take over as majority party, said Hagel had complained about interference from the White House with his defense department duties — as had the previous two defense secretaries under Obama, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates.
“Ultimately, the President needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his Administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them,” McCain said.
Leading contenders to replace Hagel include former defense department officials from Obama's first term, Michele Flournoy and Ashton Carter, who had been passed over two years ago when the former Nebraska senator got the job, the Post said.
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