Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned, the Pentagon confirmed on Monday, closing out a relatively brief, mostly low-profile tenure at the Defense Department.
Hagel’s departure was “a mutual decision,” a senior defense official said, reached after “several weeks” of discussions about the outlook for the remainder of the administration.
President Barack Obama, who accepted Hagel’s resignation, is expected to announce the departure at a morning ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House. Hagel has agreed to stay at the Pentagon until his successor is confirmed, the Pentagon said.
While a senior administration official on Monday praised Hagel’s “steady hand” during his 22 months on the job, Obama and his inner circle never fully integrated Hagel into the decision-making process and did not hide their concerns about him.
“Did he and Rice agree on everything? No — but that’s normal, that’s healthy. This is not about him vs. Susan Rice”
A senior defense official acknowledged to POLITICO that there had been policy differences between Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, but said no single disagreement had prompted Hagel’s departure.
“Did he and Rice agree on everything? No — but that’s normal, that’s healthy. This is not about him vs. Susan Rice,” the official said. “The secretary is not resigning in protest.”
The White House said that Hagel initiated conversations about his role in October “given the natural post-midterms transition time.”
Obama will not be announcing a nominee to replace Hagel but plans to make a choice “in short order,” a senior administration official said.
Hagel’s resignation was not publicly expected and rattled the Washington defense establishment.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby had said after the Nov. 4 midterm elections that Hagel had committed to remaining in the administration for its final two years. At a defense conference in California last week, Hagel delivered a speech about acquisition reform as usual and gave no sign that he was planning to leave.
“I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job,” Hagel told Charlie Rose in an interview televised last week.
All the same, Hagel’s tenure has more often been an anchor for Obama than a help. He endured a long and painful confirmation process that included a widely panned hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and several weeks of limbo as a Republican filibuster kept him on ice.