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Transition 2012

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Cabinet Update: Chuck Hagel Nominated for Defense

by Newsteam Staff
January 7, 2013

Senator Hagel speaks during news conference at US embassy in Islamabad April 13, 2006. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters) Senator Hagel speaks during news conference at US embassy in Islamabad April 13, 2006. (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters)


President Barack Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel (Politico) for secretary of Defense to replace outgoing secretary, Lean Panetta.

Hagel is a former Republican senator from Nebraska and is considered by Obama to be a “trusted ally whose willingness to defy party loyalty and conventional wisdom won his admiration both in the Senate and on a 2008 tour of war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan,” reports the New York Times.

The Washington Post reports his confirmation will likely be “quick and painless,” however a number of analysts say that it will face opposition, including from the Israel lobby to gay rights advocates to fellow Republicans.

Jacob Heilbrunn writes in Foreign Policy that, at the risk of further alienating Republicans, Hagel could help Obama in cutting the defense budget. In Foreign Policy, J. Dana Stuster writes that in Hagel’s 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter, he presents himself as “an Eisenhower conservative — low budgets and no wars.”

Hagel was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and served two terms. While in the Senate, he worked on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He currently serves as co-chairman of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and is a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board.

In 2005, Hagel, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told CFR President Richard N. Haass that:

Trust and confidence in America is about more than our military might or economic power. Power alone will not build coalitions, will not inspire trust, will not demonstrate confident leadership, will not resolve complicated problems, and will not defeat the threats that the United States will confront in the 21st century.

He went on to say that the “complexities of the 21st century demand strategic, over-the-horizon American thinking, diplomacy and leadership.” Hagel has been a strong supporter for the international affairs budget and has “spoken out in favor of the importance of development and diplomacy,” according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

In 2011 at a CFR event, Hagel said of the military:

I always got along very well with all the generals. I disagreed with a lot of them, but I always put the generals in a little different category because the way it’s supposed to work — but I’m not sure it’s really worked out this way in the last 20 years, I think the military has become far more politically influential, setting policy, in our country than is healthy for democracy.

I think the military have been in a very difficult spot. And I’ll give you an example. During the Bush years — the Bush years, in trying to sell and continue to sell Iraq — they would bring up as witnesses before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, other committees, generals as their witnesses, which in fact was really unprecedented.

And the reason they did that, of course, was very smart. Who was going to pick on the poor general, because in those days, not very long ago — and everybody knows this — the military was the most trusted, the most admired institution in America for many years. And they’re still very high. They’ve lost some of it. But considering other institutions, and relevant to other institutions, the military is still stratospheric.

In Politico, Stephen M. Walt lists five reasons why he believes Hagel is a good choice for the nomination. The Politico also compiled these ten facts about him.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri and Deputy Editor Toni Johnson

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