Brought on board to manage the drawdown of the Afghan war and to manage budget sequestration, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has been sacked today, though the official term is “handing in his resignation under pressure.”
Meant to be someone streamlining the massive defense budget, Hagel was criticized by officials as “not a forceful presence in internal policy debates,” and not a good fit for a Pentagon going back onto a war footing.
Hagel was the lone Republican in the administration’s security cabinet, and was early on seen as insufficiently hawkish for many officials’ taste, which led to a battle over his nomination.
Sen. John McCain (R – AZ), the incoming Senate Armed Services chair, was critical of Hagel’s nomination, and demanded the ouster of him and everyone else on the national security team in summer, but today condemned his ouster as well.
Some experts on the administration say his sacking was less to do with his policy, however, than his personality, saying he was known to have “a crappy relationship with Susan Rice.”
Former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy is being floated as the front-runner to replace Hagel. A Clinton-appointee, Flournoy was pushed heavily during Hagel’s confirmation process as an alternative.