Battle brewing over Obama pick for Secretary of Defense - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Battle brewing over Obama pick for Secretary of Defense

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WASHINGTON (NBC) -

A battle is brewing on Capitol Hill over who will take over two of the nation's top security positions.

President Obama has nominated former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as CIA Director.

The president praised former Hagel for his independent thinking.

"His willingness to speak mind even if it wasn't popular. Even if it defied conventional wisdom. That's exactly the spirit I want on my national security team,"  President Obama said.

That very willingness to go against his party is resulting in heat from Senate Republicans.

"This isn't about politics, this isn't about personalities.  This is about being wrong on the principle national security issues," argued Texas Senator John Cornyn.

Republicans are attacking Hagel for criticizing the war in Iraq, opposing unilateral sanctions against Iran and making comments seen by some as anti-Israel.

Gay right advocates are also critical

About 14 years ago Hagel called a U.S. Ambassador nominee "openly, aggressively gay".

He has since apologized.

Hagel's supporters describe the decorated Vietnam veteran as uniquely qualified during a time of transition at the Pentagon.

"I believe his experience, his judgment, his deep understanding of security issues facing this country make him the right choice," said current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

"I will do my best for our country, for those I represent at the Pentagon and for all our citizens," Hagel said.

President Obama also had a message for the intelligence community about his pick for C.I.A. Director.

"You will have one of your own a leader who knows you, who cares deeply for you and will fight for you every single day," he said of John Brennan.

Both men will face what could be lengthy confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Republicans are already promising intense scrutiny of Hagel in particular.

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