In a surprise development, the Pentagon has announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is stepping down from his post. The White House held a press conference Monday morning to break the news, saying it was a “mutual decision” that was the result of several weeks of discussion between Hagel and President Obama. The President called Hagel a “steady hand” during his nearly two years on the job and thanked Hagel for always being honest with him behind closed doors.
It’s no secret inside the beltway that Hagel and National Security Advisor Susan Rice did not see eye-to-eye on some issues, most notably the White House’s strategy on Syria, about which Hagel sent Rice a critical memo recently. The White House has said that despite their disagreements on certain issues, there was no particular conflict between them that led to Hagel’s resignation.
Hagel became the first former enlisted combat solider to hold the post of Secretary of Defense, which he took over in February 2013 after Leon Panetta resigned. During his time in office, Hagel oversaw the troop drawdown in Afghanistan as well as the Pentagon’s budget during military sequestration. His tenure as Defense Secretary was not without its challenges, though. Hagel was forced to deal with scandals like delays in treatment at military hospitals and allegations of Air Force nuclear weapons officers cheating on proficiency tests. He also launched major security studies and reviews after the Washington Navy Yard shooting in 2013.
There is currently no timeframe on when a new Secretary of Defense will be appointed and the White House has not named anyone as a possible successor.
Phil Ewing, Senior Defense Reporter at Politico