President Obama’s appointments for the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency reflect his vision on security: the need to have experienced appointees with broad knowledge of their areas.
Eventually, the Senate will be the one that is constitutionally in charge of “advising and consenting” to the nominations of Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon and John Brennan for the CIA. Legislative hearings are usually the deciding factor in this process.
However, we hope the White House’s decision about the new members of its team is respected, especially for these key positions within the administration.
For example, Hagel is a former Republican senator known for his independence and moderation, in addition to being a Vietnam War veteran. During the first years of his administration, Obama did not want to yield to the pressure of the generals at the Pentagon, particularly when it came to Afghanistan. In that sense, Hagel seems like the most suitable civilian to tackle the military bureaucracy. Criticisms regarding his previous positions on foreign policy are not as relevant, because his mission will be to implement Obama’s policies.
As for Brennan, it is natural for someone with a 25-year career at the CIA, who today is the White House’s main counterintelligence adviser, to take on the leadership of the spy agency. Brennan is also controversial because he is connected to the divisive suspect interrogation policy under the George W. Bush administration.
It is worth highlighting that in both cases, the president defied the image of partisan extremism depicted by Republicans, appointing two people who have also worked with and in Republican administrations. In this sense, the appointments are also acts of bipartisanship.
The process is just starting with yesterday’s nominations. We hope it concludes quickly with hearings, in order to avoid leaving the Pentagon and the CIA without leaders.