Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down President Donald Trump's offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn.
Retired Vice-Admiral Robert Harward was widely tipped for the post after Mr Trump fired Michael Flynn on Monday.
A White House official said Mr Harward cited family and financial commitments, but US media said the sticking point was he wanted to bring in his own team.
"Since retiring, I have the opportunity to address financial and family issues that would have been challenging in this position," Harward said in a statement. "Like all service members understand, and live, this job requires 24 hours a day, 7 days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently could not make that commitment. My thoughts and prayers are with those that carry such heavy burdens and responsibility for taking care of our country's national security concerns. God bless this great country of ours."
A friend of Harward's said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems so chaotic. Harward called the offer a "s*** sandwich," the friend said.
Mr Flynn had misled US Vice-President Mike Pence over his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the US.
Mr Flynn, a retired army lieutenant-general, was ousted amid claims that before he was even appointed as national security adviser he had discussed sanctions with a Russian envoy.
This would have potentially breached a law banning private citizens from engaging in diplomacy.
Mr Flynn initially denied having discussed sanctions with Sergei Kislyak, Moscow's ambassador to Washington.
But on Monday, Mr Trump asked for his resignation following revelations that Mr Flynn had misled the vice-president about his conversations with the diplomat.
Leading Republicans have called for an investigation into intelligence leaks that led to Mr Flynn's resignation.
Two other contenders - retired General David Petraeus and acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg - have also been tipped to take on the job.
Mr Kellogg, a retired three-star general, was named acting national security advisor after Mr Flynn stepped down.
The 72-year-old had a long career in the US Army, serving in Vietnam and Iraq, before retiring in 2003 and becoming a security consultant for software giant Oracle Corp.
Mr Petraeus, a celebrated former four-star general, retired as CIA director in 2012 after it emerged he had given top-secret material to his biographer, with whom he was also having an extramarital affair.
He is still serving two years' probation after his conviction for mishandling classified information, and would need to notify his parole officer if he wished to move to Washington DC.