President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Chuck Hagel as defense secretary -- calling him "the leader our troops deserve" and a man who could make "tough fiscal choices" in a time of increasing austerity. He also named counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA.
Controversy surrounds both choices, but the president called for quick Senate confirmation. "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."
Hagel, even before being nominated, has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former GOP senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. And Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency's top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.
"These two leaders have dedicated their lives to protecting our country," Obama said.
Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama's national security priorities in a second term. All three men must be confirmed by the Senate. Hagel, who would replace retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, would also oversee budget cuts in the Defense Department.