Obama makes two key appointments

President Barack Obama on Monday nominated former Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be his new secretary of Defense. Obama also chose counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Obama made his choices official in the White House East Room with Hagel and Brennan standing by his side.

The president noted that Hagel, a Vietnam war veteran, would be the first person of enlisted military rank to serve as secretary of defense.

“He understands that sending young Americans to fight, bleed in the dirt and mud, that is something that we only do when it is absolutely necessary. My frame of reference, he has said, is geared toward the guy at the bottom who is doing the fighting and the dying,” he said.

Hagel served two terms as a senator from the Midwestern state of Nebraska. He gained a reputation as someone who is willing to break with his own party on key issues.

John Brennan’s nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency is expected to be less controversial, although he will face tough questions about the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy.

He has been the administration’s key spokesman on the use of drones in targeted killings of suspected terrorists, calling them “legal, ethical, wise and highly effective.”

Brennan would replace Army General David Petraeus, who resigned in November because of an extramarital affair.

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