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. Ram Riva

    A war torned experienced soldier that responded to his country call of duty, is appointed Secretary of Defense......what an honor!!.....

    February 27, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. maximusvad

    A retired NCO in charge....about time.

    February 27, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. Rasheed

    Now the Zionists and AIPAC Jewish lobby should SHUT UP and let the man do his job for THIS country's interests.

    February 27, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. mike electrician

    Great job Sec. Hagel, it is nice to have a secretary who has been in the thick of things, not looking for loopholes to get out from serving.

    February 27, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. Jenna NYC

    Congratulations and best of luck to Chuck Hagel. What an honor is right. His Vietnam service speaks to the kind of man he is. He was an honorable and straight-talking Senator from Nebraska. I have long admired him.

    February 27, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Lionel

    He is going to do a fine job. Your service is much appreciated.

    It is great that the Republicans did not get their way as most of them are draft dodgers anyways, except for McNasty.

    February 27, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    What would Mr. Hagel be doing when the phone rings at 3AM??? Well, he'll be serving his country as usual. And what would McCain be doing??? Well, he'll be reading Time Magazine and smoking bamboo cigars in a Vietcong prison with privileges of course for selling out his country while his comreds fight to the bitter end. They should have awarded Mcvain the yellow heart.

    February 27, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. D'evil

    A hero as Sec Of Defence. What a change.

    February 27, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Manti

    Mr. Hagel was just hazed...................that's all..............by the supreme Republican dummies. We all knew he would get voted in.

    February 27, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. mec

    Man, you guys are seriously lacking any individual thought. Were you hired by Team O to support this clown? This country's interests shouldn't include Iran and exclude Israel. Him having a military background apparently means that he can have no fault in leading the nation's defenses... wow... such nearsightedness it's almost insulting.

    February 27, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. annieL

    You have your orders from Republican anti-government budget slashers. Cut, cut, cut! Remember what they said. The debt is killing American business. So start slashing those DOD contracts in red states. Then close their bases. You know, "downsize" and "restructure" like corporations do? Pro-business conservatives will praise you. Don't worry about the civilian employees. The private sector will provide good-paying jobs with a pension for all of them, restructure their mortgages to save their homes, lower their credit card interest rates, etc. Business does everything better than government. If you need help with your downsizing management decisions, call Donald Trump, Mitt Romney or any gazillionaire CEO and corporate lawyer who can tell you whom and how many to fire, how to get out of contracts, how to cut benefits and salaries, all that stuff. And you will want to outsource most of the contract manufacturing of the weapons parts, electronics, uniforms and all the supplies you need. It's a lot cheaper to get it from China, India, Mexico. Just be sure to throw some business to Israel and you'll be fine.

    February 27, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. rl

    Congrats Sec Hagel. It is great to see an enlisted soldier as out Sec of Defense. The NCO is the backbone of our military. As you have always done, Make us Proud!

    February 27, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. Animesh

    I disagree with the fact that being a war hero always makes him suitable for some top level administrative positions. Since American system allows administrators to define future policies, it should be extra careful in selecting for such positions. Politics is different ball game where you need to play diplomacy than being adamant and stubborn which soldiers are taught to be.

    February 27, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Sad Republican

    Thank you for your service, Mr. Hagel. I think that combat veteran status should be a requirement for the job. The Republicans in the Senate are pathetic. All they see is Obama. They don't see our men and women serving in harm's way. They don't see American men and women working hard to make ends meet. They don't see how hard things are going to be for our children. All they see is Obama. Can't they see that being anti-Obama places all the power in Obama's hands? They have castrated themselves.

    February 27, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. chuck

    The only reason those idiots tried to block his nomination is spite..they were peeved that he didnt go along with the fake lie inspired get rich scheme hatched by Cheney and Rummy and Wolfy in Iraq..this game playing nonsense had better stop or the GOP can smoke away like a tire on a bonfire..The real obstructionists that voted to continue the filibuster are nothing short of lunacy..they will continue to develop until they form a white supremacy party...LOL..I say bury em...

    February 27, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  16. LL

    Bizarre how Republicans trampled on one of their own just to grandstand. Even more bizarre than when Mitch McConnell (R) and John Boehner (R) just filibustered their own bills in congress recently.

    GOP = Nutjobs.

    February 27, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  17. TexasVoter

    Kinda strange that other article, the Democratic view is not being allowed and the Fox troll's have taken over. Not use to CNN blocking comments from both sides. Starting to think Murdich bought cnn

    February 27, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  18. Alex

    Horrible day for AIPAC losers

    February 27, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. Moderate Sean

    To MEC, feel insulted then. The President and the Secretary of Defense work for the citizens of the U.S., not any other country, or their interests, even our very close allies!! Get over it!

    February 27, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Ernie

    All one has to do is look at our past "miltary" decisions to know that having a combat veteran in the decision process can only be a "plus!" The criticisms by Hagels' Republican counter-parts shows just how much out of touch the Repulican Party is with Americans. As a former 9th Infantry Division Vietnam soldier, I say Welcome Home Chuck, we appreciate your committment to service!

    February 27, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. PhillyBuster

    He's a good man, a good choice. Glad we got over the partisan politics and approved what was obviously the best alternative.

    February 27, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Sophie

    Congratulations on the appointment, Mr. Hagel! It is comforting to know that a capable and truly patriotic individual will hold the Secretary of Defense office for the next four years.

    We need to revamp our foreign policy so that it reflects the American interests and values for a change. We can start by distancing ourselves from the Israeli Apartheid that breaks all international principles of couduct and acts as if they were untouchables. The math is simple: one questionable "friend" – they benefit from the relationship whike we pay for it in so many ways – is not worth antagonizing the whole Muslim word. We have been the enablers of Israeli state terrorism for 60+ years and that puts us at odds with the entire world. 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.

    February 27, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    Good Luck Chuck!

    February 27, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. Pete

    Good luck Mr Hagel,a proud decorated vet that still loves serving his country..Show republicans here how bipartisanship works sir,again good luck ,happy sailing!!

    February 27, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Mark Robins

    "Chuck Hagel addressed service members and civilian employees Wednesday, vowing to always be "honest" and "direct" with his staff".
    In the Obama administration,honest = lawless and driect = obfuscation.

    February 27, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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