President Obama praised outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday morning amid reports that the administration had lost confidence in Hagel’s ability to handle the top job at the Pentagon.
Appearing alongside Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden during an event at the White House, Obama praised the former Republican senator’s role in overseeing the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, while confronting recent challenges such as the rise of the Islamic State and the outbreak of Ebola.
“Thanks to Chuck, our military is on a firmer footing, engaged in these missions and looking ahead to the future,” Obama said.
Obama said Hagel approached him a month ago to discuss “the final quarter of my presidency,” and the two determined then that “it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service.”
Hagel, whom Obama described as “a great friend of mine,” will continue to hold the post until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.
Addressing Obama and Biden, Hagel said that he’s “grateful to both of you for your leadership and your friendship and for giving me this opportunity to serve our country once again.”
“I will continue to support you, Mr. President, and the men and women who defend this country every day,” Hagel said.