US Interior secretary also leaving post

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar intends to step down from his post at the end of March, becoming the fifth cabinet member to leave the Obama administration.

The news of Salazar’s plan to leave the administration came on Wednesday as The Denver Post reported that the former Colorado senator intends to “return to Colorado to spend time with his family.”

Salazar’s office has reportedly confirmed news of his intent to leave Obama’s cabinet.

Others leaving the Obama administration in his second term in office are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leaon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew is also due to leave his post since he has been nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Obama intends to appoint “a key national security deputy,” Denis McDonough, as his new White House chief of staff, widely viewed as the closest advisor to the US president and “the gatekeeper to the Oval Office.”

Democratic Massachusetts Senator and former US presidential nominee John Kerry has been nominated to replace Clinton at the State Department and is widely expected to win a Senate confirmation.

Former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has been nominated to take over as the next US Defense Secretary, replacing Leon Panetta.

Hagel’s confirmation, however, is expected to be difficult as he has come under harsh attacks from pro-Israeli Republican conservatives for criticizing the “Jewish Lobby” in the United States and opposing US or Israeli military strikes as well as economic sanctions against Iran while he was in the US Senate.