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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs