A near-term shakeup at the Defense Department would come as the Pentagon faces a flurry of decisions on troop levels in Afghanistan and budgets. The looming end-of-the year spending cuts the White House and Congress are seeking to avert would hit the Pentagon particularly hard.
At Defense, Hagel would give Obama a whiff of bipartisanship, and could be the only Republican in the Cabinet if Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood leaves, as expected.
Flournoy would be the first woman to lead the Defense Department. She served in the Pentagon under Panetta as undersecretary of defense for policy, resigning early this year. She served as a foreign policy adviser to Obama during his re-election campaign.
Carter, who has served as deputy defense secretary for the past year, is a protege of former Defense Secretary William Perry.
Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns contributed to this report.
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