WASHINGTON — Praising Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s “class and integrity,” President Barack Obama announced Nov. 24 at the White House that Hagel will leave his post.
The president said Hagel has agreed to remain in his position until a successor is nominated and confirmed. For that, Obama said, he is “extraordinarily lucky and grateful.”
“When I asked Chuck to serve as secretary of defense, we were entering a significant period of transition,” Obama said.
That transition included the drawdown in Afghanistan, the need to prepare U.S. forces for future missions, and tough fiscal choices to keep the military strong and ready.
Last month, Obama said, Hagel came to him to discuss the final quarter of his presidency. It was then that Hagel initially determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service, the president added.
A Steady Hand
“Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary defense secretary,” Obama said, crediting Hagel for providing a steady hand during the modernization of the administration’s strategy and budget to meet long-term threats, while still responding to immediate challenges such as the Islamic State group and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Hagel said he is “immensely proud” of what the department has accomplished during his tenure.
“I believe we have set not only this department, the Department of Defense, but the nation on a stronger course toward security, stability and prosperity,” the secretary said.
Privileged to Serve
Hagel called his opportunity to serve as defense secretary the “greatest privilege of my life.”
In the meantime, Hagel said, “I will stay on this job and work just as hard as I have over the last couple of years, every day, every moment, until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.”
The United States of America can proudly claim the strongest military the world has ever known, Obama said.
“That’s the result of the investments made over many decades, the blood and treasure and sacrifices of many generations,” he said. “It’s the result of the character and wisdom of those who lead them as well, including a young Army sergeant in Vietnam who rose to serve as our nation’s 24th secretary of defense.”