Obama said Hagel had “been in the dirt” of combat like no other defense chief.
The New York Times reported:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel handed in his resignation on Monday, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.
In announcing Mr. Hagel’s resignation from the State Dining Room on Monday, the president, flanked by Mr. Hagel and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., called Mr. Hagel critical to ushering the military “through a significant period of transition” and lauded “a young Army sergeant from Vietnam who rose to serve as America’s 24th secretary of defense.”
Mr. Obama called Mr. Hagel “no ordinary secretary of defense,” adding that he had “been in the dirt” of combat like no other defense chief. He said that Mr. Hagel would remain in the job until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.
Administration officials said that Mr. Obama made the decision to remove Mr. Hagel, the sole Republican on his national security team, last Friday after a series of meetings between the two men over the past two weeks.
The officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel, who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary, was brought in to employ.
Mr. Hagel, a combat veteran who was skeptical about the Iraq war, came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestrations.
Hagel blamed Obama in June for the controversial Bergdahl-Taliban swap.