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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More