03/03/2015 11:41 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

Gen. Tom Lawson, current defence chief, to step down later this year

The country's top military commander is planning to step down.

Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson confirmed in a statement Tuesday evening he is leaving when his three-year term ends this fall.

Gen. Lawson, who has been chief of defence staff for two-and-a-half years, was appointed in October, 2012.

"Serving Canada while leading the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces has been the greatest honour and privilege in my 40 years of service in uniform," Lawson said in the statement. "There is much work to be done, and I remain focused on my duties as chief of defence. I will do so until a replacement is named."

Defence sources told The Canadian Press earlier Tuesday his departure has been in the works since late last year and the process kicked into a higher gear shortly after the latest list of promotions and retirements was released a few weeks ago.

Lawson could be gone by summer: sources

The Canadian Press reported two separate sources saying it is possible Lawson could be gone by the summer, depending on how the selection of replacement goes. The sources said such a timetable would make it easier on the government, which is expected to be in full campaign mode in the fall when he reaches the three-year mark.

There is no set term for chiefs of defence staff, who serve at the pleasure of the prime minister, but the average time has been three years.

All of the sources said a replacement short list has already been compiled and it includes Lt.-Gen. Jon Vance, the country's operations commander; Lt.-Gen. Mike Day, who represents Canada at NATO's southern headquarters; Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, the commander of the army; and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who commands the navy.