A picture of Senator Jack Reed
John R.
Democrat RI

About Sen. John
  • Executive Session

    by Senator Jack Reed

    Posted on 2013-02-13

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    REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that when Senator Lee concludes his remarks, I be recognized.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    The Senator from Utah is recognized.

    (The remarks of Mr. Lee are printed in today's Record under ``Morning Business.'') The PRESIDING OFFICER. The senior Senator from Rhode Island is recognized.

    Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. He comes to this job at an extraordinarily challenging time for the Department and for our Nation. Among the many issues he will confront, Senator Hagel will oversee the drawdown of our forces out of Afghanistan, the enhancement of our cyber defenses, and the management of various fiscal constraints on the defense budget. In fact, I cannot think of a more critical juncture of national security issues, budget issues, and technology issues, all coming together, facing the next Secretary of Defense.

    I have known Chuck for many years, and I know he is particularly well-suited to tackle these challenges. Chuck was born and raised in Nebraska, the oldest of four sons of a World War II veteran. Public service, military service is in that family's core. When his father died suddenly at the age of 39, [[Page S685]] Chuck quickly shouldered the responsibility of helping his mother raise his brothers. And when our Nation was in the midst of a bitter and divisive fight in Vietnam, he volunteered to fight, serving alongside his brother Tom. This was an era when there were many people who were looking for ways through deferments to avoid service, to avoid wearing the uniform of the United States. He was unusual in that he not only sought service, but he sought service in Vietnam alongside his brother.

    He rose to be an infantry sergeant, and both he and his brother were wounded twice, with each saving the other's life. In that experience as a combat infantryman, he knows, perhaps better than anyone who has been nominated for this office, the ultimate cost of our policies that are made here in Washington.

    When he returned home, Chuck used the GI bill to attend the University of Nebraska in Omaha, and after graduating from there, he went to Washington to work for a freshman Congressman from his home State.

    In 1980 President Reagan, recognizing his skill, his talent, his patriotism, and his devotion to the country, nominated him to be Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. He ultimately left that post on a matter of principle. He thought there was inadequate support from that department for veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. At that time, the effects of Agent Orange were being dismissed by some as nonconsequential, as something that was just a made-up malady by these veterans.

    Chuck knew differently, and later the science would prove him right. He continued to fight as he left the Veterans Administration, helping to ensure that these veterans who were physically affected by their service in Vietnam received compensation as the victims of Agent Orange.

    In that tenure as the Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration, he had the responsibility of running a large Federal department. So he is now bringing not only his service as a common infantryman but his service running a large department devoted to the veterans of these United States. That will serve him well as Secretary of Defense. Again, it makes him singularly if not uniquely qualified.

    But it doesn't stop there because he has extraordinary experience in the private sector. In the mid-1980s he cofounded Vanguard Cellular Systems, which became one of the largest independent cellular systems in the country. Again, someone from modest means with great imagination, after serving his country both as a soldier and as an administrator under the Reagan administration, went back and started a business and made it successful--so successful that he was able to devote himself to other public activities.

    He served as deputy commissioner general of the United States for the 1982 World's Fair. He was president and chief executive officer of the USO, the agency devoted to helping servicemembers and their families. Again, his commitment to the American soldier, sailor, airman, and marine has been consistent, constant, and unrelenting.

    Then he became chief operating officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations--the G7 summit--in Houston, the president of an investment bank, and he was on the board of some of the world's largest companies.

    So you already have at this juncture a soldier, a successful entrepreneur, and a successful Federal administrator.

    Then in 1996 he came to the Senate to represent the people of Nebraska. He was the first Republican Senator from Nebraska in a generation. We came here together. He came with all of these skills, and he added more skills, understanding the political process from the inside and from the outside that helped shaped national security policy, the budgets and the policies of the Department of Defense and every other Federal agency.

    During his time in the Senate as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, he championed national security policies with the goal of ensuring that our military remains the strongest in the world. Senator Hagel believes in working closely with our allies and partners and that, in his words, ``a nation must strategically employ all instruments of its power--diplomatic, military, economic--to defend its interests.'' So he brings a broad, comprehensive approach to national security, which is essential for our next Secretary of Defense because so many of the national security challenges we face are not simply military; they are diplomatic, they are economic, and they are environmental. They require the kind of broad-ranging approach that he takes to national security policy.

    As he stated during his nomination hearing 2 weeks ago, he has one fundamental question he has asked himself on every vote he took while serving in the Senate: Is the policy worthy of the men and women we were sending into battle and surely to their deaths? Is this going to be worth the sacrifice, because there will be sacrifices.

    It is one thing to study the art of war in lecture halls and to speak profoundly as a pundit. It is something else to be in the mud, under fire, seeing others fall. I have not had that experience. I served 12 years in the U.S. Army, but very few people, very few people in this Chamber, very few people who would be considered for Secretary of Defense, have been under fire, have seen comrades fall, know that ultimately what we do here is borne by what those brave young Americans do across the globe. He knows it intellectually and viscerally. I know he will bring that perspective, that concern for our men and women in uniform, to every decision before him as Secretary of Defense.

    In this role, he will continue to focus our efforts on fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and throughout that region. We are facing a crucial turning point. In his State of the Union Address last night, the President announced his plan to further reduce our force levels in Afghanistan next year as the Afghan National Security Forces will take full responsibility for securing their nation. I think Senator Hagel is very well positioned to carry out this policy, to ensure it is done effectively, to ensure that our forces are protected and that we are able to help enable the Afghan forces to carry the burden to defend their country and provide stability.

    Senator Hagel will also lead the Department in preparing for emerging threats to our national security, such as attacks on our cyber infrastructure. We are at a critical point in our history, perhaps akin to the 1920s when air power first began to emerge as a credible military dimension, then later as space became a possible military dimension. Cyber is now a new dimension in warfare.

    We are at a similar juncture to the one when some of our colleagues in the 1920s were wondering how we use these contraptions that fly around the sky. But in a short period of time, air power made a profound difference on the world. The attack on Pearl Harbor was launched by aircraft from aircraft carriers, not by the bombardment of battleships and not by the landing of military forces. You can see the effect it had not only through World War II but in every conflict to today.

    We are at another critical juncture, and that is with respect to cyber security. How will we defend ourselves? What policies will we adopt to use this new technology to protect the United States and our allies? It will require integration across our government. It will require thoughtful, conscious deliberation. I believe he is prepared to do that and will do that very well.

    I am pleased that President Obama has just issued an Executive order that will improve coordination and information sharing with our industry partners so we can better protect our Nation's critical infrastructure, but there is more to be done, and I believe that in the context of a Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel can do it.

    Perhaps most challenging of all, Senator Hagel will lead the Department in a time of great fiscal constraints and uncertainty. As our Nation continues to find a path forward to rebound from the economic challenges of the last few years, there is an ever-growing pressure to reduce the size of the defense budget, which has nearly doubled over the past 10 years. But we must be very careful to do so in a way that eliminates unsustainable and unproductive costs without losing vital capabilities. That is a great challenge. As a result of the high operations tempo of our services, the multiple operations and deployments, all of our services are facing serious reset and recapitalization [[Page S686]] needs in terms of equipment and also significant efforts to help our military members and their families readjust, retrain, reequip, and prepare for a challenging future.

    Serious decisions will have to be made about the threats we face and as we anticipate new and emerging threats. Again, he is well prepared through his entire life of public service, military service, private service, administrative and business activity to confront this extraordinary range of challenges.

    A lot has been made about some comments Senator Hagel has made in the last years, going back 5, 7, 8, or more years. But I know, indeed, which was reflected in his testimony, that he did not seek out this position. President Obama chose to nominate Chuck Hagel because he knew of his record, of his service to our country. He knew of his incredible commitment to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States. He knew about his experience in the private sector. He knew about his experience as a governmental leader. He knew there was an ability to rely upon his judgments, Senator Hagel's judgments, with confidence in times of crisis. I expect that the President of the United States is not going to turn to Chuck Hagel, particularly among crises, and ask him if can he quote verbatim what he said 10 years ago. He is going to say: What are my options? What is your advice? You know about war better than anyone. You know about military policy. You know about international security. You know about the interaction of diplomacy, economics, and environmental policy. Give me your judgment. I have to make a decision.

    I believe, reflecting what the Senator, my chairman, Carl Levin, has said, that in this difficult moment, the President of the United States needs a Secretary of Defense to provide that kind of perspective, and the men and women of the Department of Defense have to have the ability to have their voice heard decisively and definitively in those serious discussions, particularly about the deployment of military force.

    As I said, I am extremely confident he can do this. Let me also say I am impressed with those who have served our country in diplomatic and military roles who have endorsed Chuck Hagel strongly and enthusiastically. These endorsements are from men and women who have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Among them are Bob Gates, William Cohen, Madeleine Albright, William Perry, Brent Scowcroft, Ryan Crocker, and Thomas Pickering. These men and women have devoted themselves to protecting the United States, and they have done it with extraordinary energy and effectiveness. This list of Secretaries of Defense will rank as some of the best we have ever had, and they are absolutely confident Chuck Hagel can and should do this job.

    There are Ambassadors on this list who have handled delicate and difficult issues involving international law. There are several Ambassadors who have been Ambassadors to the State of Israel and strongly support Senator Hagel. All of these individuals know him. They also know as well--if not better than I and many of my colleagues--of the threats, dangers, and opportunities which face this country, and they are strongly supporting Chuck Hagel. In fact, they have concluded in a letter that he is ``uniquely qualified to meet the challenges facing the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform.'' There has been a lot of discussion about Chuck Hagel's appreciation of the strong, important, and critical relationship between the United States and State of Israel. All I can say is I was so impressed by the comments of the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who was also the Ambassador to Washington, and who has met and dealt with Senator Hagel on a number of issues involving the relationship with the United States. The Deputy Foreign Minister said: ``I have met him many times, and he certainly regards Israel as a true and natural U.S. ally.'' In another quote he said: I know Hagel personally. . . . I think he believes in the relationship, in the natural partnership between Israel and the United States.

    Here is an Israeli patriot who understands and has spent a great deal of time devoted to the relationship of the United States and Israel. In his own words, he concludes that Chuck Hagel regards Israel as a true and natural U.S. ally and will act accordingly. He is a dedicated patriot. He is an individual who has served this country in so many different ways. I support his nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

    Also, I think it is important to state that this nomination--as we have done with every Secretary of Defense for decades--deserves an up- or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. People may choose to cast a vote against him for many reasons, and that is the prerogative of that Senator. I strongly believe, if we want to stay true to the traditions of this body and to the presumption that the President should be allowed to at least have his nominee voted up or down, then we have to bring this vote to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote as quickly as possible.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blumenthal). The Senator from New Hampshire.

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