Hagel starts first day at Pentagon
February 27th, 2013
11:40 AM ET
5 years 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. *Note to self

    Remember what reaching across the aisle gets you.

    February 27, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Congratulations Mr. Hagel. At least you didn't sell out your country to the Vietcong like John McCain did. Now Sir, you have serious work to do such as finding out where the WMDs are hidden. Our national security depends on it.

    February 27, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    The worst Defense Secretary ever has to be Donald Rumsfeld. He was a disappointment during the Vietnam War, and then tried to make amends for that failure with the war in Iraq.

    February 27, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. well

    he must have sworn his unconditional support for AI PAC agenda last night.

    February 27, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. gladitsnight

    Congratulations to the very best man for the job.

    February 27, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. Frank

    Good luck with your "on the job training" Hagel.

    February 27, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Frank

    A senator noted yesterday on the floor of congress that no SOS has ever been sworn in in the past half century with more than 5 votes against him and in the HISTORY OF OUR NATION no more than 11..

    How many votes AGAINST did this anti Semite get? ----– 41 -----–!

    What does that tell you?

    February 27, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Please investigate what happened in Benghazi. Bet Mcvain and the GOPT really don't want the American people to know what happened there.

    February 27, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Frank

    Meant SOD, Secretary of Defense. This will be the fist one that admitted he nothing about the job and would learn by "ON THE JOB TRAINING" That should make us all sleep safe at night right!?

    February 27, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. Martyns

    Congratulations to YOU (Mr. Hagel)!
    You are the very best man for the job, Mr. Secretary… We pray that the Good Lord will guide you as you make these decisions for our uniform men and women.

    February 27, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Tom

    Congratulations GOP! Another windmill bites the dust.

    February 27, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Please investigate Benghazi. Bet the GOPT really don't want you to.

    February 27, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    Congrats! However, I do feel sorry for the man. He is will be the biggest moving target for the GOPers, since our President was elected (the first and second time). Please do U.S. proud.

    February 27, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  14. rs

    That Republicans would reather "play" politics than do their jobs?

    February 27, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey Tehran, conservatives in American believe that Mr. Hagel is pro-Iran. Well, with that being said, can you please go ahead and proceed with your underground nuclear test at Parchin. As a matter of fact, the world would be glad to see America's response. Hey, we just like to prove conservatives in America WRONG as usual.

    February 27, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. Cathi

    Only in government would someone dare to show up for their first day 40 minutes late.

    February 27, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. Mavent

    @Frank: It tells me you're an ldiot.

    February 27, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. lottie

    congratulations. Now we need to give the man a chance before we start complaining. It was disgraceful the way he was treated. No wonder he came across as he did during the hearings. With everyone seemingly out to get him. He served his country well 2 purple hearts so let wish him the best.

    February 27, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. yanni

    Congratulations Mr. Secretary well deserved owner for the American hero and a critical thinker who doesn't fall in line to appease the few. Worlds have earned a reasonable leader.

    February 27, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. Robert

    Hope we will survive the next four years then rid ourselves of this POS in the WH and all the dung he dragged in on his shoes.

    February 27, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  21. Tampa Tim

    There are knowns and unknowns. There are unknowns we know about, and knowns we don't know about. We know what we know and don't know what we don't know.

    February 27, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  22. Peter Clarke

    Not a good sign to be late for work the first day !

    February 27, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. bear

    Congratulations to you Mr. Secretary. to Frank your question about the 41 no votes only means there are more idiotic people in the Senate than most people thought.

    February 27, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Jim

    Good luck sir.

    February 27, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Pete

    Just remember republicans what your SOD in Rumsfield was like,a total loser that didn't amount to a hill of beans..Quit complaining about Hagel a decorated war vet who's more of a man than 99% of your so called heros including McCain the Saigon Songbird,not that's a loser if I've ever seen one!!

    February 27, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
1 2 3 4