President Obama on Friday decided to ask Chuck Hagel to step down, White House officials tell the New York Times, which reports that the president will announce the defense secretary's exit in a Rose Garden appearance today. The sources say the move follows two weeks of meetings that Hagel initiated, and one characterized the decision as one that was mutually agreed upon. As the Times put it, the decision is "a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ."
The Times frames his exit as a move intended to show White House critics that Obama is taking action after perceived missteps in the administration's reaction to ISIS and Ebola. It further describes Hagel—in the position since early 2013—as having long struggled to find an opening that would allow him past the circle of advisers who surround Obama. Some say Hagel was a very quiet presence during Cabinet meetings; others say he feared leaks and preferred to talk to Obama alone. The Times also speculates on possible replacements: former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed (formerly with the Army's 82nd Airborne), and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. (Read more Chuck Hagel stories.)