McHugh stepping down as Army secretary, will leave before Nov. 1
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department said Monday that Secretary of the Army John McHugh is stepping down.
The department provided no reason for McHugh’s departure but said he might stay on as the Army’s top civilian until November to give the Obama administration a smooth transition as it searches for his successor.
His departure comes as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno also plans to retire, closing a page on the era of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and ushering in new leadership as the service faces growing unrest around the world and defense budget caps in Washington.
“There will be much time in the coming months to appropriately celebrate his many accomplishments, but for now I will just say that every soldier is better off because of his hard work and vision, and so is the country,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement.
The longtime Republican congressman from New York was appointed by President Barack Obama as secretary in 2009 after serving as the ranking minority member on the House Armed Services Committee.
Some in the Defense Department had anticipated that McHugh would step down during Obama’s second term, according to press reports in 2013.
But Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said he could not confirm whether McHugh had planned his departure.
The leading candidate to replace McHugh is said to be Eric Fanning, currently chief of staff to Carter, according to Defense News.
Considered “one of the most capable leaders in the Pentagon,” the Defense News said, Fanning would be the first openly gay secretary of a U.S. military branch.