The Washington Times - December 13, 2012, 03:10PM

President Obama is reaching across the aisle to fill one of the top administration national-security posts for his second term.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, is the top contender to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, has passed the vetting process and may be nominated as soon as this month, according to a Bloomberg report citing two people familiar with the matter.

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Mr. Hagel, who often bucked his own party, served two terms in the Senate and left in early 2009. Early in his career, he served as an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam.

After leaving the Senate, he joined the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which gives presidents advice on the quality and adequacy of the government’s intelligence collection, in the fall of 2009. He also serves as the chairman of the Atlantic Council, a think tank focused on U.S. leadership in international affairs.

Other contenders for the top civilian Pentagon post include Michele Flournoy, a former defense undersecretary for policy, and Ashton Carter, deputy defense secretary, according to the report.

Mr. Panetta, 74, has said he is leaving the post and will not serve in it for a second term.