U.S. President Barack Obama faces the prospect of picking a new secretary of defense and a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Libya adds a third conflict to the demands of the stretched U.S. military.
The timing of Obama's decisions is unclear. Here are profiles of some of the possible contenders to replace Robert Gates as defense secretary and Admiral Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
DEFENSE SECRETARY POSSIBILITIES
LEON PANETTA: The current director of the CIA and a Democrat close to Obama, Panetta is seen as a strong candidate. He is already well versed on national security issues, including the Afghanistan war and unrest in the Middle East.
Panetta, a White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, is also a well-regarded former member of Congress, where he spent time grappling with budget issues expected to weigh on the Pentagon at the end of Obama's first term.
JOHN HAMRE: A former deputy secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, Hamre would also bring management and budget experience to the job -- crucial qualifications at a time of belt-tightening.
His defense credentials are extensive as the Pentagon comptroller from 1993-97 and, before that, as a staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where his responsibilities included oversight and evaluation of budget issues. He was also deputy assistant director for national security and international affairs at the Congressional Budget Office.
Hamre is now head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington-based think tank. He also chairs the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, which advises Gates and other top Pentagon officials.
RAY MABUS: The U.S. Navy secretary, Mabus has made reducing the military's dependence on fossil fuels a top priority. He set a goal to have half of all energy the Navy uses come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020.
Last year, Obama put him in charge of drawing up a Gulf Coast recovery plan to respond to BP's oil spill.
He was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992 and the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996.
MICHELE FLOURNOY: The top national security and defense policy adviser to Gates, Flournoy would shatter the glass ceiling at the Pentagon by becoming the first woman to get the top job.
HILLARY CLINTON: Her experience as the top U.S. diplomat would position her well for the Pentagon job. But Clinton says secretary of state will be her last post in government.
CHUCK HAGEL: A decorated Vietnam combat veteran who was an early critic of the Iraq war, Hagel is seen as one of the only potential Republican candidates for the job. The former senator from Nebraska is now chairman of the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank. He co-chairs Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board and is a member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.
CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF POSSIBILITIES
GENERAL JAMES CARTWRIGHT: Now Mullen's No. 2 as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cartwright is widely viewed as a top candidate.
A former chief of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal, he was dubbed "Obama's favorite general" in reporter Bob Woodward's book "Obama's Wars." The book said Cartwright gained favor in the White House during its 2009 strategy review of the war in Afghanistan by investigating options for a more limited surge of U.S. forces.
He has not served in Iraq or Afghanistan but proponents of the idea of his candidacy say has been deeply involved in war planning in both countries.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: On paper, Petraeus may be the most qualified person. He is credited with helping to turn the tide in the Iraq war as the former commander there and is now trying to do the same in Afghanistan.
Some observers believe Petraeus may ultimately be promoted to another post -- perhaps as the next Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. He denies any political aspirations but rumors persist that he could be a potential Republican U.S. presidential candidate in the future.
ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS: He is now NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, a job with the dual role of commander of the U.S. European command. If he does not get the chairman's job, he is seen as a leading contender for chief of naval operations when Admiral Gary Roughead retires this summer.
GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO: The head of U.S. Joint Forces Command and a former commander in Iraq, Odierno is widely respected but could be a contender for other top jobs, including vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Will Dunham)
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