|FILE - This Nov. 1, 2012 file photo shows former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel speaking in Omaha, Neb. He's a contrarian Republican moderate and a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. And he's likely to endorse a more rapid troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Hagel, President Barack Obama's top candidate for defense secretary, also has another credential that's arguably even more important to this president: Hagel and Obama have a personal relationship, forged in the Senate and strengthened during overseas trips they took together. Hagel, 66, emerged as the front-runner for the Pentagon chief last week, four years after retiring from a Senate career in which he carved out a reputation as an independent thinker and blunt speaker. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)|
Pentagon front-runner has strong Obama ties
A big benefit will be his experience and his allies on Capitol Hill.
‘‘Certainly his name coming forward is one I'm very open to,’’ said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who served with Hagel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ‘‘I had good relations with him while he was in the Senate. Certainly (he's) a veteran and someone who also spent a lot of time around the world understanding the relations other countries have with the U.S. and vice versa.’’
Defense analyst Loren Thompson, of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute think tank, said Hagel knows the political system and is known for thinking outside the box, which would help as budget cuts move forward.
‘‘He’s a veteran who understands how Congress works and has stayed plugged in to developments in defense policy,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘He is not tied to the status quo and will think creatively about how to manage America’s military forces.’’
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
Lolita C. Baldor can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lbaldor