(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."
Whatever happens now is on Hagel's and Obama's watch. Just like Panetta, Clinton and Obama in Benghazi – which they have yet to come clean on and be accountable for. All those living in the past and blaming Bush need to join the present – and hold these people acccountable. Our national security depends on it.
Congratulations Secretary Hagel.
Now put that in your pipe and smoke it McCain the crash test dummy!
Hagel knew he was going to be sworn in the white house, in spite of what mccain says, hes a looser to obama now mccain is talking, mccain is not a good speaker but hes a dumb loser.
Good luck, Chuck. You're gonna need it.
Chuck Hagel sworn in! YAY!!!!
now, what was the hold up?
Why did McCain and his puppet Graham start trippin
NOBODY CARES NOW
Republicans eat their own when they dare to work with Democrats for the good of the country.
Hagel is just the latest example of this.
Congratulations Mr. Hagel. I am sure you will continue to put the interest of America first.
Congratulations Mr. Hagel.
Thank you for your previous and continued service to our country.
Congratulations Secretary Hagel! You are going to make a great Defense Secretary in spite of some retarded GOP senators, who just can't stand anything Obama favors.
God bless you and your family.
Well, I am glad that is settled. Now what diversion will the GOP come up to ignore what is on the table.
My son, an active duty Marine and the country deserve better...much better!
I was once a supporter of McCain, but the McCain from years ago is not the same man. He is now a grumpy old man who only deals in absolutes. One who lives by absolutes can never be negotiated with. He is and will be one of the primary reasons for the downfall of the RNC.
Signed, a fed up conservative
The GOP simply hates America and loves obstruction. It is bad enough that the GOP heaps lies and obstruction on the President of the United States, but their treatment of a twice wounded, decorated Viet Nam War veteran is positively disgusting.
Sure, most in the GOP dodge military service, but their hatred for veterans is over the top.
Think you for your service to the country.What did you do that made you say yes to this job? Good luck.
Congratulations Mr. Hagel.
Obama needed another patsy to take the blame and this dude is just dumb enough to volunteer.
In spite of the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"-like feel to this quest, a solid ending. A small victory for enlisted men/women, Vietnam vets, the military, Repubs and Libs both, even McCain is smiling on the inside that his old friend made the cut.
Now, let's avoid 'trainwrecking' his budget with cuts so they can be applied in a 'sane' way.
Congratulations Secretary Hagel. Please do a good job in the name of the American people and not for any one party.
Israel must be fuming. Hagel has it right, we can not let the State Dept be an arm of israeli Gov't.
gop put up a fight to cover their asss just in case Hagel did something wrong at job
it is all calculated show busi
Hagel, just go away from the GOP leaders and focus on the work of the country. GOP leaders are up to no good. They have lost there commonsense and sense of balance. Everything they do now is hurtful to the country.
The days of Israel unduly influencing our Defense Department are finally over!!
Congratulations Mr. Hagel. I am sure you will put the overall interests of the US, and not the Jewish lobby, first.
Congratulations Mr. Hagel.
May the Lord bless you as you continue to work for the betterment of our country!
I'm glad the republicans did not get there way in stopping Hagel from becoming Secretary of Defense!!!! With the likes of McCain and his side kick Lindsey Graham, who needs friends like them. Then there is the McCarthy type, Ted Cruz, from the extreme rightwing- teabag party, who is just trying to make a name for himself. Thank goodness he can't run for President!!!!!!!!! REPUBLICANS, HE IS NOT AN AMERICAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In my opinion, Cruz is not worthy of such a prominent office.