News / USA

    Hagel Nomination Signals Change at Pentagon

    Hagel Nomination Could Signal Leaner Pentagoni
    X
    January 08, 2013 11:07 PM
    If he is confirmed, President Obama’s pick for the new defense secretary, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, will deal with a shrinking Pentagon budget and the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. As VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, the nominations of Hegel and of John Brennan as CIA chief signal changes at two institutions at the forefront of keeping America safe.
    Hagel Nomination Could Signal Leaner Pentagon
    Luis Ramirez
    If he’s confirmed, Chuck Hagel - President Barack Obama’s pick to be the new defense secretary - will immediately have to deal with cutting the U.S. defense budget by $487 billion or more and the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
     
    The decisions will be tough, but for the 66-year-old Republican former senator from the U.S. state of Nebraska, they will be a natural fit.  
     
    Chuck Hagel

    • Was chairman of the Atlantic Council public policy group
    • Co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
    • Republican U.S. senator from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska
    • Served in Vietnam in 1968, where he earned two Purple Hearts
    • Born in 1946 in Nebraska
    Hagel has spoken out against shedding the blood of U.S. soldiers in conflicts with unclear goals. He supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq by voting to authorize the use of military force at the start of the war, but later opposed sending more U.S. troops in what was known as the surge.
     
    He also has spoken in favor of cutting waste at the Pentagon, telling The Financial Times in 2011 the Defense Department was “bloated” and needed to be “pared down” after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
     
    As one who fought on the front lines in Vietnam, Hagel would bring an added dose of reality to the job of defense chief. He enlisted as an infantryman and was wounded twice. To this day, bits of shrapnel are still lodged in his chest and he has burns on his face and arms. Awarded two Purple Heart medals for his valor, he brings added respect from the troops he will command if confirmed. It will be the first time a former enlisted soldier becomes secretary of defense.
     
    Some say his first-hand experience of the horrors of war has fostered in him a more cautious attitude on engaging in armed conflict.
     
    In announcing Hagel’s nomination at a White House press conference Monday, Obama said the former Nebraska senator is a patriot who understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed is “something we do only when absolutely necessary.”
     
    Standing next to Obama after the announcement of his nomination, Hagel said he is grateful for the chance to work to strengthen the United States and its allies, but also to advance global freedom, decency, and help build “a better world for all mankind.”
     
    Hagel has pledged to offer honest counsel to the president at a time when the United States is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan ahead of a deadline at the end of next year.  

    Breaking with the party

    Hagel, a Republican, is known in Washington for his blunt talk and independent positions. They have included splitting with his party in opposing the Iraq war and his criticism of Washington’s handling of the war in Afghanistan, where half of the territory remains under the control of insurgents more than a decade after American troops landed in the country.
     
    With much of the Afghanistan exit strategy still undecided, there is much room for him to influence the president on the withdrawal of troops.
     
    “It certainly is of relevance that Senator Hagel has been relatively skeptical of the Afghanistan mission and you would have to assume that he’d be a voice joining that of Vice President [Joe] Biden arguing in favor of perhaps a little faster drawdown,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington.
     



    Few expect Hagel to keep his frustrations about Afghanistan quiet if he is confirmed as defense secretary. Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council, worked closely with Hagel while the former senator served as chairman at the Washington research group. He said Hagel will not waste time before assessing what the U.S. should be doing at this stage in Afghanistan.
     
    “The one thing you know will happen is he will ask the tough questions,” said Kempe.
     
    “He’ll say, ‘what are we negotiating with the Afghans, for what purpose? What is the regional context?  How much do we need to leave behind and for what purpose in the regional context?’”

    The Senate battle ahead

    Hagel faces a battle for confirmation at the U.S. Senate by those who accuse him of being less supportive of Israel and not so tough on Iran.
     
    In past remarks, Hagel has spoken of what he described as an intimidating “Jewish” lobby and been against unilateral sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions - raising questions of whether he would be less supportive of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran.
     
    The confirmation of White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan as the new CIA chief is expected to be less contentious, although he was the architect of the U.S. drone program to kill suspected terrorists.  
     
    Analyst Michael O’Hanlon said Brennan likely will be judged more on his efforts to eliminate al-Qaida leaders before they attack U.S. interests again. “I don’t expect any trouble with his confirmation on those grounds.”

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora