First on CNN - Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison leading contender for US ambassador to NATO

Kay Bailey Hutchison

(CNN)Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, is the leading contender to become US Ambassador to NATO, a senior administration official told CNN on Tuesday.

The official said the move to tap Hutchison is part of an "uptick" in the process to fill undersecretary and ambassador positions within the State Department.
The hope is to have Hutchison in place before NATO meetings in Brussels later this month, the official told CNN.
Hutchison served in the US Senate for nearly 20 years, deciding against seeking re-election in 2012 after an unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to then-Gov. Rick Perry, who is now leading the Department of Energy.
Hutchison was the first woman elected to represent the state of Texas in the US Senate. While in office she served on a variety of committees including: Armed Services; Appropriations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Intelligence; Small Business; Rules and Administration; and Veterans' Affairs.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hutchison would replace Earle D. Litzenberger, who is currently serving as the acting permanent representative.
President Donald Trump's shifting views on NATO have been well documented through the early days of his presidency.
Earlier this month, Trump emphatically embraced the alliance in a reversal of his campaign trail rhetoric lambasting the organization.
"I said it's obsolete," Trump said, referencing a favorite refrain. "Now it's no longer obsolete." He made the remarks to reporters at the White House alongside NATO's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, after giving him a warm welcome and praising the organization as "the bulwark of international peace and security."
Trump has appointed several pro-NATO figures to senior positions and appears willing to heed their advice. Secretary of Defense James Mattis once held one of the senior-most military commands in the alliance and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the US commitment to the collective defense of fellow alliance members "inviolable" during his confirmation hearings.