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The United States Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel is now Secretary Hagel as he was sworn in today to become the 24th Secretary of Defense.
His swearing in comes one day after his confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Hagel’s collegues denied his confirmation with a full vote for almost two weeks before agreeing to an up or down vote yesterday. He was confirmed by a vote of 58-41 on Tuesday.
The Republican Senator garnered only four Republican Yea votes. Those voting in his favor were Senators Thad Cochran(Miss.), Mike Johanns(Neb.), Richard Shelby(Ala.), and Rand Paul(Ky.). The Rand vote for confirmation came as a surprise as Kentucky’s Senator voted against cloture before voting in favor of Hagel.
Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against the confirmation of Hagel. Murkowski said in a press release, “While I greatly respect Chuck Hagel’s public service, his military career and Vietnam experience do not automatically translate to leading the Pentagon – especially as it faces 21st Century conflicts and challenges.”
“When Chuck Hagel was put to the test by the Senate Armed Services Committee, he hedged and equivocated when asked about one of the greatest threats to America and our allies in the Middle East: Iran – their nuclear efforts, whether to impose sanctions and whether the United States should consider governments that do not share our peaceful goals as equals at the bargaining table.
“Senator Hagel knew that these questions – along with those on terrorism and modern warfare – were going to be a focal point and he did not satisfy my concerns and the concerns of many Alaskans. Because of my strong reservations surrounding his first real test, I cannot support his nomination to lead the Department of Defense into a new era of evolving and emerging threats.”
President Obama welcomed Hagel’s confirmation yesterday, saying the United States will “have the defense secretary our nation needs and the leader our troops deserve.”
Hagel, the first Secretary to be a Vietnam War vet and enlisted soldier to become the Pentagon top spot, will have his work cut out for him immediately as he takes office as the Pentagon is facing major budget cuts as well as billions more in cuts if the sequestration takes effect on Friday.
Later this morning, Hagel will address Department of Defense employees and then meet with senior staff and other military leaders.