Hagel starts first day at Pentagon
February 27th, 2013
11:40 AM ET
1 year ago

Hagel starts first day at Pentagon

(CNN) – New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addressed service members and civilian employees Wednesday, vowing to always be "honest" and "direct" with his staff–and asking the same in return.

"You are not joining my team. I am joining your team," he said. "And I want you to know how proud I am of the opportunity the president of the United States has given me and the Congress of the United States has given me."

His remarks–which got off to a rough start due to some audio issues–came just a couple of hours after he was sworn in. His first day on the job marks the next step after a long, bruising nomination battle that came to an end Tuesday.

"You'll always know that you have a secretary of defense that will deal straight with you. I'll be honest. I'll be direct. I'll expect the same from you," the Vietnam veteran told the audience. "I will never ask anybody to do more than I wouldn't do. That's the story of your lives. I wouldn't be worthy if that was not the case."

Hagel had endured months of scrutiny since word began spreading in December that he was considered a frontrunner for President Barack Obama's pick to replace retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

A former Republican senator, Hagel took heat from his own party in the Senate for some of his previous statements and positions, especially his opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and his opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran.

After tense hearings with the Senate Armed Services Committee–which included a fiery grilling from his old friend, Sen. John McCain–Republicans filibustered Hagel's nomination. That debate ended Tuesday and the chamber confirmed Hagel later in the day.

Hagel further elaborated Wednesday on his views, saying he believes the United States' role in the world should be one of engagement.

"We can't dictate to the world, but we must engage in the world. We must lead with our allies," he said.

Hagel also made comments about the dominant news story of the day: the looming spending cuts set to kick in Friday. Before his retirement, Panetta was an outspoken critic of the automatic, across-the-board cuts, warning they could have a devastating impact on the military.

But Hagel's words were less forceful Wednesday.

"We need to figure this out. You are doing that. You have been doing that. We need to deal with this reality," he said. "We have got ahead of us a lot of challenges."


Filed under: Chuck Hagel • Department of Defense • Pentagon
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Fivetools22

    His nomination has restored some pride and dignity to a country in decline. He will be terrific. Congratulations to him and our nation.

    February 27, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. T

    ............CUT that......."unneeded, unwanted, unnecessary, duplicate 'ALTERNATE JET ENGINE',...."..that Boehnor insisted be built in HIS District.
    .
    .....................What,..........you thought we forgot?

    February 27, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Dean

    Just counting the days until this guy screws something up.

    February 27, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. GA

    About time...all this vicious and personal attacks are uncalled for. The rest of the world watched USA politics shaking their heads.....Glad it's over.

    February 27, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Sophie wrote:

    .....The best way to defuse the anti-American sentiments and threads from Al-Qaida is to bring to an end the Palestinians' suffering. Establishing free Palestine within 1948 borders will be the first step to re-establish our credibility as a true world leader.
    ---------------–
    Israel will never agree to come to the negotiation table using the 1948 borders as a framework. Israel will never begin with less than the post 6-Day War borders, minus the Sinai Pennisula. Israel feels that the Sinai is enough concession to expect a reciprocation from the other side.

    February 27, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Larke Marie

    I hope he has the management skills to run this place.

    February 27, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. Shrapnel

    Hagel's first test is his pick for Deputy Secretary Defense- for he runs DOD.. My guess is that Hagel had to make deals and assurances over this position to get confirmed. Hope I am wrong. Defense is filled with Zionist neocons who should be purged, otherwise Hagel will be undermined. These neocons are pushing for joint plans with Israel to bomb Iran. Let's see where Hagel goes when the neocons sit on him at the Pentagon. Shrapnel.....

    February 27, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Syd Chaden

    Hagel's first action will undoubtedly be to implement Obama's new policy, just announced by outgoing SECDEF Leon Panetta. Panetta has issued a directive stating that certain military benefits formerly reserved for married couples will now be extended to unmarried partners — but only if they’re same-sex partners.
    Heterosexual unmarried partners do not qualify for the benefits. Panetta issued his directive in a memorandum to the secretaries of the military departments and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
    Citing the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, Panetta stated: “Discrimination based on sexual orientation no longer has a place in the military.”
    He then went on to state a policy that clearly discriminates based on sexual orientation.

    February 27, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Getoverit

    @GA

    About time…all this vicious and personal attacks are uncalled for.
    -------------
    Oh, you mean like what the liberals and the MSM did to Romney, Palin, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Santorum... etc. etc.?

    February 27, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Lost Keys

    Why do people still persist in thinking that Hagel is not a supporter of Israel? A little homework goes a long way on this issue. Many Israeli and Jewish leaders have been outspoken supporters of the guy. The only reason he's an issue right now is because Obama put him there and it's somehow a moral imperative for all members of the GOP to fly into a frothing rage at anything the man does at all, even if it's appointing a Republican to a position of power.

    February 27, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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