President Obama announced today that he will nominate Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. 

In making the announcement, the president called Hagel “a champion of our troops and our veterans and our military families.”  He noted that Hagel, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the first former enlisted person and the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Hagel currently serves as the Chairman of the Atlantic Council, a public policy organization promoting North American/European cooperation, and co-chairs the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.  He is also a member of the Defense Policy Board.  From 1997 to 2006, Hagel served as Senator from Nebraska.  His private sector experience includes president and CEO of McCarthy & Co. investment banking firm (1992-1996), co-founder and executive vice-president of Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc. (1985-87), and co-founder and president of Collins, Hagel, and Clarke Inc, an international consulting and investment firm (1985-85).  Hagel volunteered for the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam in 1968 where he received two purple hearts.

The president also said he will nominate John Brennan to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Brennan is currently the president’s Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.  He called Brennan, who is a 25-year veteran of the CIA, one of the nation’s “most skilled and respected intelligence professionals.”

The president thanked Leon Panetta for his service both as Secretary of Defense (2011-13) and CIA Director. (2009-11).  He also praised current Acting CIA Director Michael Morell for his more than 30 year’s service in the CIA.