President Obama is expected to announce at 11:10 a.m. EST that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down.
According to the New York Times, Hagel is doing so “under pressure” after two weeks of meetings with Obama.
More from the NYT:
The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.
But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.
But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Earlier this month Hagel said there was critical need for overhaul of the country’s nuclear force — plans that the House Armed Services Committee chairman feared would clash with Obama’s “global zero” anti-nuke plans.
Hagel told reporters that both internal and external reviews found “a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses.”
Hagel’s recommendations included “changes in organization, policies, and culture,” while “others require an increase in resources, allocated to the nuclear mission.”
“I hope the president will listen to his senior civilian and military national security leaders, take this as seriously as they do, and cast aside his Global Zero vision that is in reality unilateral disarmament,” Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said at the time. “We can work together to follow the blueprint established by Secretary Hagel and his review and show the leadership our men and women in uniform deserve.”
Obama passed over Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter for the job after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta resigned. Carter, a highly knowledgeable and powerful force inside the Pentagon, stepped down in October 2013. A week later, Press Secretary George Little resigned.
Panetta has since unleashed on the administration in a memoir, saying last month that the president drawing an unenforced red line on Syria was “damaging” to U.S. credibility.
Panetta’s book notes that Obama too often ”relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader” and sometimes he “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”