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Obama's new foreign-policy and security team: Could Colin Powell be on it?

With President Obama likely to begin his second term with a sharp domestic focus, he’ll need a trusted foreign-policy and security team to handle sensitive, and pressing, global challenges.

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At the top of the list for secretary of State is Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, who has served as something of an unofficial White House envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and who shares Obama’s interest in addressing nuclear proliferation.

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Another high-ranking candidate is Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, who was also a key adviser on candidate Obama’s 2008 foreign-policy team. Ms. Rice’s star may have fallen after her defense of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack on Sunday news programs enraged congressional Republicans.

Also considered a possible Obama pick for secretary of State is Tom Donilon, currently the president’s national security adviser. If Mr. Donilon were to be sent to the State Department, most observers believe Obama would move up his current deputy national security adviser, longtime Obama foreign-policy adviser Denis McDonough.

Were Panetta to decide to step down, Obama could make history by naming the first woman as secretary of Defense – Michèle Flournoy, a respected defense policy expert who has already occupied the Pentagon’s No. 3 job, and who served as an adviser to the Obama campaign.

Besides Ms. Flournoy, speculation falls on Ashton Carter, currently Panetta’s chief deputy.

All are trusted individuals who either serve or have served Obama in some foreign policy or national security capacity, and many analysts believe that the White House’s overall focus on domestic issues will dictate naming a new team from an already tried-and-trusted pool of advisers.

But some experts suggest Obama may want to bring on board a fresh face – especially one that would signal to Congress an interest in putting a bipartisan stamp on defense and US foreign policy. That has led some analysts to speculate that former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel or Colin Powell, President George W. Bush’s first secretary of State and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could be named to head the Pentagon.

Mr. Powell, a Republican, prominently supported Obama for both election and reelection.

If Obama really wanted to extend a hand across the congressional aisle, some analysts say, he might consider handing the secretary of State job to Richard Lugar, the moderate Republican senator and foreign-policy specialist who was defeated in Indiana’s Republican primary this year.

Naming Senator Lugar, an arms control and nonproliferation expert, would signal Obama’s determination to make progress on those two issues.

Mr. Hagel was already an Obama supporter in 2008, and was considered for a cabinet post in the first term, Mr. Siegel notes. But he adds that naming Lugar, who is still serving until the new Senate convenes, “would really be a bipartisan signal from the president.”


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