As President Obama heads into his second term, and a new cabinet comes into shape, attention now focuses on the leading choice for Secretary of Defense: Chuck Hagel.
As the Chairman of the Atlantic Council, and former Nebraska GOP Senator, Hagel certainly has the policy chops and political bona fides to take over the reins from the current Secretary Leon Panetta.
The next secretary of defense will immediately be faced with managing American commitments and new priorities. The Pentagon will continue its rebalance — or "pivot" — toward the Asia-Pacific, where the U.S. has already been bolstering its presence in the region. At the same time, the next secretary of defense will preside over a transition in Afghanistan that insiders say appears harder than anticipated — both politically and operationally.
Then there's the Middle East at large, which presents a separate set of challenges: Egypt's rocky political transitions, an intransigent Iran, and escalating violence in Syria. Key in managing the U.S. role in each and all of these situations is recognizing the limits of American power and influence. Fortunately, Hagel gets how complex the picture is, and would be committed to ensuring that the U.S. military does not become overextended yet again.
During his time in the Senate and now at the Atlantic Council, Hagel has been a strategic thinker who understands the interconnectedness of an array of threats. He has demonstrated the ability to understand the terrain of these new battlefields, and would be well-prepared shape the military as it prepares for this new security environment.