WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says Chuck Hagel, his choice as the new secretary of defense, is "the leader that our troops deserve."
Obama formally announced his choice of Hagel in the White House East Room on Monday even as critics questioned the pick over issues including Hagel's views on Israel and Iran.
Facing a potentially tough fight to get Hagel confirmed by the Senate, Obama praised the former Nebraska senator's independence and bipartisan approach, and said that Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, understands war is not an abstraction.
Hagel, a moderate Republican, has the support of some of his former Senate colleagues but is drawing opposition from others who accuse him of being soft on Iran and insufficiently supportive of Israel.
Obama has also tapped White House homeland security adviser John Brennan as his nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.
Obama named Brennan as his pick to succeed former CIA chief David Petraeus, who resigned in November after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Brennan is a 25-year veteran of the CIA and among Obama's closest advisers. Obama called him a friend.
The president praised Brennan as one of the most skilled and respected intelligence professionals. Obama says Brennan and Hagel understand that "the work of protecting our nation is never done."
Brennan's post requires Senate confirmation.