Within an hour of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's resignation announcement, defense watchers began looking to potential nominees to replace him. Within two days, two of the top contenders removed themselves from that list.
On Monday, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said through his staff that he had no interest in the job. A day later, Michèle Flournoy, the former top policy adviser at the Pentagon, asked the White House to drop her name from consideration as well.
The moves leave Ash Carter, the former deputy secretary of defense, as the most-rumored name to be selected for the post. White House officials have floated his name as a possible Pentagon leader for years.
Related: Top candidate for SECDEF bows out
Carter has worked both as the Pentagon's top weapons buyer and budget official, and still commands the respect of many in the building and on Capitol Hill. He's a Rhodes scholar with degrees in theoretical physics and medieval history, and also served as an assistant defense secretary during Bill Clinton's presidency.
But he's not the only name still under consideration. Here's an updated look at some of the other rumored candidates:
• Robert Work: The current Defense Department deputy secretary has played a major role in recent military budget planning issues. He's a former Navy undersecretary and has close ties to a pair of prominent defense think tanks. He's also been a long-trusted adviser to President Obama, taking a lead role on his defense transition team.
• Deborah Lee James: The current Air Force secretary boasts more than 30 years of national security experience in the government and private sector, with ties to influencers in both arenas. She also has ties to the Clinton administration, serving as an assistant secretary for reserve affairs. And she worked on the House Armed Services Committee staff for a decade, giving her allies on Capitol Hill as well.
• Ray Mabus: The former Mississippi governor works as secretary of the Navy, and was a key figure in the department's reaction to the 2013 Navy Yard shooting. Mabus was also previously tapped by the White House to lead clean-up efforts following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
• Other names in the mix: Army Secretary John McHugh, Clinton's Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Clinton Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre.
• Names not in the mix: Retiring Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin has said he's looking forward to returning home to Michigan at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for former Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell said he has no interest in returning to the government.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.