President Barack Obama could name his next defense secretary in December, far sooner than expected and perhaps in a high-powered package announcement with his choice for secretary of state, several senior administration officials tell The Associated Press.
The personnel moves, coupled with Obama's coming choice for a new leader of the Central Intelligence Agency, will be viewed by U.S. allies and enemies alike as signal of how he will pursue national security in a second term. All of his choices will be subject to Senate confirmation, which itself is a significant factor in his decisions.
The top names under consideration for defense secretary are former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Among those, Kerry is seen as desiring the secretary of state's job more.