Obama picks Chuck Hagel as next defence secretary, setting up likely confirmation fight

Julie Pace, The Associated Press
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defence secretary, defying congressional opposition to the former Republican senator.

Hagel, 66, is a decorated Vietnam veteran who served two terms in the Senate. Even before his nomination, he has come under tough criticism from some former GOP colleagues over his stances on Israel and Iran.

Still, Republican lawmakers have stopped short of saying they might block Hagel's nomination.

The president will announce Hagel's nomination from the White House Monday, a senior administration official says. If confirmed, Hagel will replace current Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and take over the Pentagon as it deals with budget cuts and the winding down of the Afghanistan war.

The official requested anonymity in order to discuss Hagel's nomination ahead of Obama.