President Obama names his picks for two top national security posts, tapping former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary and John Brennan for CIA head.
FOX News Radio's Jared Halpern reports from the White House:
If confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel would bring a unique resume to the defense secretary job.
(Obama) "One of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department."
The President also nominating counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA.
(Obama) "My number one criteria in making these decisions was simple; who is going do the best job in securing America?"
Both nominees could face tense confirmations. Republicans are critical of what they call a soft stance on Iran by Hagel. Brennan's role in U.S. drone strikes and enhanced interrogation policy will also be questioned.
At the White House, Jared Halpern, FOX News Radio.
WATCH more from the nomination announcement:
READ a statement from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor regarding President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense:
"I am profoundly concerned and disappointed by President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Recent reporting has made clear that Senator Hagel's views and inflammatory statements about Israel are well outside the mainstream and raise well-founded doubts that he can be trusted to manage the special relationship the United States shares with our greatest Middle East ally.
Senator Hagel's incendiary views of Israel are only the tip of the iceberg. On Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and defense spending, Hagel's reported views call into question his judgment about the most important matters facing our national security. Taken together, Hagel's views represent a call for a broad retreat from the preeminent role America has played, and must continue to play, in the world during a period of profound tumult and instability.
Hagel opted for political expediency in opposing the surge in Iraq, and supported a retreat that would have ceded victory to al Qaeda and Iran. The nomination of a man known primarily for opposing sanctions and military action against Iran strongly suggests that all options are not on the table. Hagel's nomination telegraphs weakness in the Middle East and defeatism in Afghanistan, where our Afghan partners will surely be concerned, and our Taliban and Iranian adversaries will surely be emboldened.
There has been widespread and bipartisan opposition to this potential nomination, and the President's willingness to move forward despite these concerns only reinforces the signal that he agrees with Hagel's extreme positions. Senator Chuck Hagel is the wrong man for the job at such a pivotal time."
READ a statement from General Colin Powell on the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel:
"I wholeheartedly endorse President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.
Chuck Hagel has been a friend and colleague of mine for over twenty years. He is a fellow Infantryman who demonstrated his courage in Vietnam. He served his country as a dedicated official in the Department of Veteran Affairs and as a respected legislator. He was also a successful businessman.
Chuck displays his courage in many ways. You can always count on him to analyze a difficult situation and take a position that reflects his best judgment. I believe that more than ever we need that kind of independent and bold leader who thinks in and out of the box. He is the kind of leader needed by the Department of Defense to deal with the strategic and resource challenges it will be facing over the next several years.
He will be a splendid successor to Secretary Leon Panetta, who has done a superb job in guiding the Pentagon. I urge the Senate to hold prompt hearings and to confirm this distinguished American as soon as possible."
READ a statement from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on the intent to nominate John O. Brennan to be the CIA Director:
"Today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate John Brennan to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. John is a career intelligence professional with more than 25 years of service as an agency officer. His reputation as a strong leader and his deep understanding of the challenges facing our Intelligence Community make him a superb choice to return to the CIA as director.
In his current position as deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John has been a strong advocate for and partner with the IC. He enjoys widespread respect across the community and throughout government. He is a colleague and a friend longstanding.
Upon confirmation by the Senate, I look forward to continuing to work with John as he assumes the helm at CIA."
READ a statement from Senator John McCain on the nomination of John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency:
"I appreciate John Brennan's long record of service to our nation, but I have many questions and concerns about his nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration, as well as his public defense of those programs. I plan to examine this aspect of Mr. Brennan's record very closely as I consider his nomination."