News / USA

Hagel Nomination Signals Change at Pentagon

Hagel Nomination Could Signal Leaner Pentagoni
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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs