U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel walks out to welcome New Zealand's Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee at the Pentagon in Washington, November 24, 2014. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is resigning at a particularly tough time for U.S. foreign and defense policy, with one war ending, another just beginning and the Pentagon struggling with the prospect of deeper budget cuts ahead.Hagel aides said he had initiated private talks with the president in late October but was not leaving over policy conflicts.Hagel, 68, never broke through the White House's notoriously insular national security team. Among leading contenders to replace Hagel is Michele Flournoy, a Democrat who served as the Pentagon's policy chief from 2009-2012 and after leaving provided foreign policy advice to Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.With Hagel's ouster, Obama will be the first president since Harry Truman to have four defense secretaries.Others saw Hagel as slightly out of step with the White House.
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