By James Finn 2-27-2013
It’s official. Chuck Hagel is Secretary of Defense.
The former Nebraska senator and Vietnam veteran was sworn in today.
The Senate had finally confirmed Hagel’s appointment in a vote of 58-41. This came despite immense scrutiny from fellow Republicans for his statements regarding personal politics, national security, and Israel.
A decorated Vietnam veteran of the United States Army, Mr. Hagel opposed the war in Iraq and continues to do the same for Afghanistan. Hagel is the first Vietnam veteran and also enlisted soldier to serve as defense secretary.
In 1998, Hagel opposed President Clinton’s nomination for the ambassador to Luxembourg. He claimed the nominee’s homosexual orientation would hinder his effectiveness at the job. Mr. Hagel has since apologized and supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” two years ago.
Pro-Israeli activists and some lawmakers have been upset with Hagel because as a Senator, he had referred to pro-Israeli lobbyists as “the Jewish lobby.” It was thought that he was suggesting Israeli lobbyist were bullying Washington politicians. Mr. Hagel has since apologized and says he supports Israel.
Hagel comes at time where the Department of Defense is downsizing because of budget cuts and next year’s ending of combat operations in Afghanistan.
He will be replacing retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.