By Mary Morgan
President Obama has made his official Secretary of Defense nomination: Chuck Hagel. Obama is urging the Senate to confirm Hagel as quickly as possible. For anyone who is new to the name, here is a guide to Chuck Hagel and everything you need to know about the potential next Secretary of Defense.
Quick biography points
Political party: Republican
Born: Oct. 4, 1946
Spouse: Lilibet Hagel
Alma mater: Brown College, University of Nebraska, Omaha
Current position: Chairperson of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board
Assumed office: Oct. 28, 2009
Previous position: U.S. Senator from Nebraska
In office: Jan. 3, 1997-Jan. 3, 2009
Military service: United States Army
Service years: 1967-1968
Wars: Vietnam War
Awards: Purple Heart (2), Army Commendation Medal, Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, Combat Infantryman Badge
During his two terms in Senate, Hagel was an outspoken member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He often differed from his party’s views on the management of the Iraq war, which he had initially supported but later criticized former president Bush for a surge of additional troops. Hagel is also a strong advocate for veterans. Hagel’s term in the Vietnam War would give him a unique background, making him the first Secretary of Defense to have served during that war. Since ending his run as a Senator, Hagel has served as a co-chairman of Obama’s intelligence advisory board.
Criticisms of the nomination
Some Republicans question Hagel’s commitment to Israel’s security, and state that his support is weak.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R_Va.) stated that Hagel’s views on Israel are “well outside the mainstream” and raise doubts that he can manage the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Cantor also stated that Hagel’s views on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and defense spending “represent a call for a broad retreat” from America’s global role.
Others have criticized Hagel for his “mixed record” over the imposition of sanctions on Iran. He has opposed several bills to impose unilateral sanctions, but also supported measures to place sanctions as part of multinational efforts and endorsed labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.
Support for the nomination
Hagel would be a well-known Republican addition to the Cabinet. Considering the demand for a bipartisan government, this addition may help repair the divided Congress.
Endorsers of Hagel include former defense secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Gates stated that Hagel is a man of “complete integrity and deep patriotism. Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel also wrote a letter in supporting the nomination in December.
Powell believes Hagel can be depended upon to analyze difficult situations. “I believe that more than ever we need that kind of independent and bold leader who thinks in and out of the box,” Powell said. “He is the kind of leader needed by the Department of Defense to deal with the strategic and resource challenges it will be facing over the next several years.”
Hagel has said that critics distorted his record, and that he is not “anti-Israeli” and plans to show total support for the ally. Hagel also voted for nearly $40 billion in military aid to Israel over his tenure. He vows to be strong against Iran.