Former Nebraska Republican senator and Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel has taken the top spot on the Obama administration’s shortlist of candidates to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, according to news reports.

Hagel, who currently serves as the president of the Atlantic Council, has undergone the White House’s vetting process for the top job at the Department of Defense (DOD) and is awaiting President Obama’s final approval for the Pentagon nomination, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Hagel was brought to the White House on Dec. 4 to discuss the possibility of taking Panetta’s post after the Pentagon chief announced earlier this year that he would likely be leaving the department.