News / USA

New US Defense Secretary Confirmed

FILE - Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 31, 2013.
FILE - Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 31, 2013.
Michael Bowman
The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Barack Obama’s pick for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after a bruising nomination battle that saw widespread Republican opposition to the former Republican senator by a vote of 58 to 41. Hagel will lead the Pentagon as America’s war in Afghanistan is winding down, and at a time of U.S. fiscal austerity.
 
The Senate confirmed Hagel Tuesday, just days before the start of automatic spending cuts, half of which will affect national security.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“In three days, across-the-board cuts to defense spending are scheduled to take effect," said Reid. "The Pentagon needs a seasoned leader to implement these cuts.”

Two weeks ago, Republicans blocked a final vote on Hagel, saying they needed more time to consider the nomination.  On Tuesday, more than a dozen Republicans joined with Democrats to end debate.  But bipartisanship virtually disappeared four hours later, when all but four Republicans voted against confirmation in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

Senator John Cornyn was among those who cast a ‘no’ vote, citing Hagel’s statements at his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

“Senator Hagel described the murderous, terrorist-sponsoring Iranian theocracy as an ‘elected legitimate government’.  That comment is a slap in the face to all the courageous Iranian democracy activists who have risked their lives, and in many cases given their lives, to oppose the dictatorship and promote freedom.  There is no way to sugarcoat it: Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept.  And we should not be installing a defense secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job," said Cornyn.

Cornyn and other Republicans also criticized Hagel’s comments on Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s perceived clout in U.S. politics.

Democrats said many of Hagel’s comments have been mischaracterized or taken out of context.  Senator Carl Levin noted Hagel’s unique military background.

“Senator Hagel would be the first former enlisted man and the first veteran of the Vietnam War to serve as secretary of defense," said Levin. "This background gives Senator Hagel an invaluable perspective.”

Democratic Senator Tom Carper cautioned his Republican colleagues against setting a damaging precedent of partisan obstruction to presidential Cabinet picks.

“Some day we will have a Republican president again," said Carper. "Someday we will have a Republican majority here.  Just be careful - I say this with respect - be careful of the bed that we make.  Because someday our friends on the other side [Republicans] will get to lie in it.”

Republicans countered that President Obama should have put forth a less-divisive nominee who would have attracted bipartisan support.

Senator Roger Wicker:

“If a Republican president in the future brings a nomination for defense secretary to this Senate who cannot get as many as 60 votes, I will ask that Republican president to withdraw that nomination, and wish this president [Obama] would do the same," said Wicker.

Chuck Hagel
  1. Chairman of the Atlantic Council public policy group
  2. Co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
  3. Republican U.S. senator from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska
  4. Served in Vietnam in 1968, where he earned two Purple Hearts
  5. Born in 1946 in Nebraska
Has the contentious confirmation process left Chuck Hagel a weakened defense secretary?  Analyst Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute says no, and predicts Hagel’s relationship with Republican lawmakers will improve.

“A lot of those wounds will, if not be healed, at least be ameliorated. Once he [Hagel] is there, they [Republicans] will not want to undermine his ability to manage the Defense Department, unless he does something that they think is shockingly bad," said Ornstein.

Hagel succeeds Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary beginning in 2011.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid