White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will leave the administration this summer, to be replaced by longtime press aide Josh Earnest.
The surprise departure came just hours after President Obama accepted the resignation of another top official, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
In an announcement to the White House press corps Friday, Obama called Carney "one of my closest friends."
Neither Carney nor the president commented on Carney's next posting. Carney, a former Moscow bureau chief for Time magazine, said only that he will not be moving to Russia to serve as U.S. ambassador, an appointment that has been speculated about in the past.
Obama called Earnest a man whose "name describes his demeanor." He will take over in the coming weeks.
Carney has served as the president’s lead spokesman since January 2011, longer than most people last in the high-profile post.
Bespectacled and mild-mannered, Carney is known for a disciplined and rigid style of briefing the press during the daily on-camera back-and-forth at the White House. He generally sticks closely to pre-written talking points, except when interjecting a bit of editorial direction and media criticism aimed at his former reporter colleagues.
Carney’s tenure was marked by a period of tight control of the White House’s message and an expanded use of social and nontraditional media to push the president’s agenda.
Carney’s press shop recently battled with the White House Press Corps over access for the photographers and reporters who regularly cover the president.
Earnest has served as Carney’s deputy for three years and is a regular stand-in at the lectern. The Kansas City native worked on Capitol Hill before joining the Obama campaign.