President Barack Obama is to pick maverick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary later, amid a political backlash over the nomination.
Chuck Hagel would replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, but Hagel’s fellow Republicans have voiced criticism over the Nebraskan’s views towards Israel.
White House officials also say Barack Obama will pick his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as director of the CIA.
Both appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.
The nominations are expected to be formally announced at the White House on Monday afternoon.
Along with Senator John Kerry, whom Barack Obama nominated last month to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan would help shape the president’s second-term national security agenda.
But analysts say the choice of Chuck Hagel, a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam veteran, could prompt a Senate confirmation battle. Opponents say he is hostile to Israel and soft on Iran.
Chuck Hagel has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the US or Israel against Iran and has advocated including Iran on future peace talks in Afghanistan.
Although no Republican lawmakers are threatening to block Chuck Hagel’s nomination, two influential senators have attacked him.
Chuck Hagel made critical remarks against the Israel lobby in the US capital, quoted in a 2008 book by former state department official Aaron David Miller.
“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Chuck Hagel was quoted as saying.
“I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
Top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN on Sunday: “This is an in-your-face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”
US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC there would be “a lot of tough questions” for Chuck Hagel.
But White House officials say Chuck Hagel’s positions on these issues have been misrepresented, saying he voted to send billions in military assistance to Israel and has supported the imposition of multilateral sanctions on Tehran.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said the appointment of Chuck Hagel would be “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel”.
But the pro-Obama National Jewish Democratic Council adopted a softer tone, saying it trusted that Chuck Hagel would “follow the president’s lead of providing unrivalled support for Israel”.
Chuck Hagel has also been criticized by some Democrats for saying in 1998 that a nominee for an ambassador post was “openly, aggressively gay”. He has since apologized for those comments.
If John Brennan is confirmed to lead the CIA, he will replace General David Petraeus, who resigned last year after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
A CIA veteran, John Brennan is currently Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser. The 57-year-old was heavily involved in the planning of the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Although put forward for the role in 2008, John Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to interrogation techniques used during the administration of George W. Bush.
“Brennan has the full trust and confidence of the president,” a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP news agency.
“Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA.”