Senior administration officials tell The Associated Press that President Barack Obama could name his next defense secretary in December, far sooner than expected and perhaps in a high-powered package announcement along with his choice for secretary of state.
The personnel moves, coupled with Obama's choice for a new leader of the Central Intelligence Agency, will be viewed by U.S. allies and enemies alike as signal of how he will pursue national security in a second term. All of his choices will be subject to Senate confirmation.
The top names under consideration for defense secretary are former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy and Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Kerry is seen as coveting the State Department job more.