Chuck Hagel confirmed as Secretary of Defense

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

The United States’ new Secretary of Defense is a decorated war veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts. He’s a former investment banker, a former CEO and a former senator. As a young man, he was a community organizer for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. He’s a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and he heads the Atlantic Council, a think tank that strives to strengthen trade and economic bonds between the U.S. and the nations of the Eurasian continent. Chuck Hagel, if nothing else, is a highly accomplished man.

“I am very optimistic about Hagel as secretary, and think he is very qualified,” says Kaylene Wright ’13. “He is a veteran, he has voluntarily opted out of the ‘safer’ option, and works hard for veterans and their families now.”

President Obama nominated Hagel for the position of Secretary of Defense on January 7. This nomination was met with criticism for nearly two months afterward. Some claimed he is anti-Semitic, given his statment in a 2006 interview that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people.” Some scorned his desire for direct diplomatic engagement with Iranian and Palestinian groups.

Others claimed he is anti-LGBT, though Hagel has officially apologized for remarks he has made to this effect.

“I appreciate how when our Colorado Senator Mark Udall questioned him on marriage equality, he said he would support LGBT soldiers and make sure that they weren’t discriminated against,” says Wright.

Many powerful individuals on Capitol Hill supported his nomination. Former secretary of state Colin Powell and secretary of defense Robert Gates endorsed Hagel, as well as dozens of current and former U.S. ambassadors. Notably, several rabbis and Jewish lobbyists have supported Hagel — Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the pro-Israel lobby group J Street, went so far as to tell the Christian Science Monitor in late 2012, “The notion that Chuck Hagel is anti-Israel is ludicrous.”

Hagel endured a long series of hearings and filibusters before the Senate approved his nomination on February 26, 2013. Immediately, he faces cuts to the defense budget because of sequestration in addition to tensions in nations including Mali, Iran, North Korea, Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan.

As Secretary of Defense, Hagel exercises command and control over all of the branches of the United States Military subject only to orders from the president, according to Title 10 of the United States Code.

“I hope Hagel will prove a competent Secretary of Defense,” says Jake McKnight ’13. “I have high expectations of him — if he wasn’t qualified for the job, President Obama wouldn’t have nominated him.”

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