Obama will make the announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House at 1:30 p.m. ET. Kerry would replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as soon as he is confirmed by the Senate.
Clinton, who has been ill, will not attend the announcement.
Kerry's Republican colleagues have indicated that the confirmation process will be a smooth one -- far easier than the one United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice would have faced had Obama nominated her. Rice withdrew her name from contention last week.
Clinton has long said she would leave the department at the end of Obama's first term in search of rest, time to write another memoir and an opportunity to figure out the next stage of her life and whether that includes a bid for the White House in 2016. She recently suffered a concussion in a fall, and was not able to testify at a hearing on Benghazi this week.
Friday's announcement is not expected to include a replacement for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The leading contender, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, has come under increasing fire from supporters of Israel and some Republicans.
The nomination of Kerry, the senior senator from Massachusetts, sets off a scramble to fill his seat -- first for a temporary nominee and then for candidates in a special election. Ted Kennedy Jr., a son of the late senator, has been discussed as a possible replacement, as has Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, who could be a "placeholder" appointment. Former Gov. Michael Dukakis has also been discussed as a possible placeholder. Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told POLITICO this week that he wouldn't say no to an appointment.
On the Republican side, the leading candidate would be Sen. Scott Brown, who first won his seat in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy and last month lost his race to Elizabeth Warren.
For Kerry, 69, the secretary of state job would cap a career that began with four years of Navy service during the Vietnam War, followed by a period of high-profile, anti-war activism that helped launch his political career. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat representing Massachusetts in the House, worked as a district attorney and as the state's lieutenant governor before being elected to the Senate in 1984. Kerry has served on the Foreign Relations Committee throughout his time in the Senate, and has been the chairman since 2009.
Since losing his presidential race against George W. Bush in 2004 and deciding not to run for president again, Kerry's ambitions shifted from the White House to Foggy Bottom. After Obama picked then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden as his running mate, attention turned to Kerry as a possible Obama secretary of state. Kerry not only had foreign policy experience, but had tapped Obama to give his career-making 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address and had provided a key early endorsement to Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
But Obama tapped Clinton, his former primary opponent for the job.
Kerry remained an ally of the administration, even playing Mitt Romney in the mock debate sessions during the 2012 campaign. He initially took it easy on the president -- generating concern that the senator was more interested in trying to shore up the secretary of state job in a second term than in helping the president prepare for debates, according to "The End of the Line," an eBook published in collaboration between POLITICO and Random House. But, in time, Kerry proved to be a strong sparring partner for Obama.
As Rice faced criticism for her comments about Benghazi, Kerry defended her record.
"She is a remarkable public servant for whom the liberation of the Libyan people has been a personal issue and a public mission," Kerry said in September. "She's an enormously capable person who has represented us at the United Nations with strength and character."
Rice removed herself from consideration for the post on Dec. 13, saying she wanted to avoid a "very politicized" nomination fight that would distract from the president's agenda.
Rice, who advised the 2008 Obama campaign on foreign policy, was widely seen as the president's preferred pick, someone with a similar worldview and personal rapport. But she angered Republicans with her Sept. 16 appearances on the Sunday shows, when she described a spontaneous demonstration -- and not terrorism -- as the cause of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- who along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) was most vocal in opposing Rice -- jokingly referred to Kerry as "Mr. Secretary" during a recent press conference, while Kerry's retort poked fun at their shared one-time ambition: "Mr. President."
If confirmed, Kerry would be the first white man to serve as secretary of state since the late Warren Christopher, who served throughout Bill Clinton's first term. Since then, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Clinton have held the job.
Rice would have been the second African-American woman to hold the job -- following Condoleezza Rice, of no relation -- and would have offered some continuity in the diversity of Obama's national security inner circle.
While she removed herself from contention for State, Rice is still viewed as a likely candidate to, if he departs, fill Thomas Donilon's spot as national security adviser, a job that doesn't require Senate confirmation.
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