Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was sworn in as defense secretary Wednesday, saying the United States must not dictate to the world.
Hagel told Pentagon employees America must engage with the rest of the globe. He said no nation as great as the United States can lead alone.
He acknowledged the challenges the Pentagon faces because of the billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts that are likely to take effect Friday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to service members and civilian employees at the Pentagon after being sworn in, Feb. 27, 2013.
Outgoing Senator Chuck Hagel greets supporters after a farewell news conference in Omaha, Nebraska, December 18, 2008.
Then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, David Petraeus, and Chuck Hagel ride in a helicopter, Baghdad, Iraq, July 21, 2008. (US Army)
Then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden, left, laughs as then Senator Chuck Hagel dresses up as Biden for Halloween, October 31, 2007, on Capitol Hill.
Then President George W. Bush and then Senator Chuck Hagel embrace at the Airlite Plastics Company in Omaha, Nebraska, May 12, 2003.
Then Senator Chuck Hagel, left, and Senator John Kerry, shake hands while with other senators who served in Vietnam at the 15th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, March 7, 1997.
Chuck Hagel (right) standing outside tents in Vietnam, circa 1968. (Library of Congress)
The new chief said his department will have to deal with the reality of the cuts. He pledged to do everything in his power to be what he said is the kind of leader the Pentagon and country expect and deserve.
The Senate confirmed Hagel Tuesday after bitter confirmation hearings. Some of the senators accused Hagel of being too lenient toward Iran and too critical of Israel. Others found fault with him for opposing the 2007 U.S. troop surge in Iraq.
Hagel, a former enlisted solider, succeeds Leon Panetta and is the first Vietnam War veteran to serve as defense chief.
"We are living in a very defining time in the world, you all know that. It's a difficult time," said Hagel. "It's a time of tremendous challenge. But there are opportunities and I think it's important that we all stay focused obviously on our jobs, on our responsibilities, which are immense, but not lose sight of the possibilities for a better world."