Syriaby Senator Dianne Feinstein
Posted on 2013-02-26
FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for
the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be our next Secretary
of Defense. He is eminently qualified for the position and possesses an
exemplary record of service to this country. I strongly believe that a
President is entitled to his cabinet selections unless there is
something in an individual's record or background that is
disqualifying. And there is nothing in Senator Hagel's background that
is disqualifying. He is a veteran, he has been a successful CEO, and he
has served at highest levels of the legislative and executive branches.
I served with Senator Hagel during his two terms in the U.S. Senate-- including his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2003- 2008. I found him to be a knowledgeable and independent voice with a strong grasp of the pressing national security issues facing our country. Those of us who served with him know Senator Hagel's story well. His career began as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam where he served with distinction and earned two Purple Hearts. Indeed, as an enlisted man, he has seen the true costs of war. He understands that the use of military force should always be a last resort and should only be undertaken with a clear strategy, clear mission and the resources to get the job done. He understands that we have a solemn obligation to take care of our returning veterans and the families and loved ones of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. As we emerge from over 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that is the kind of leadership we need at the Department of Defense and, more importantly, that is the kind of leadership the men and women in uniform deserve. They will take pride in the fact that Senator Hagel will be the first enlisted man and the first Vietnam veteran to head the Department.
Chuck also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the USO and as the Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration, where he fought to ensure that our veterans received the benefits they earned, including assistance for those suffering from Agent Orange. He then went on to the private sector where he co-founded VANGUARD Cellular Systems, a leading cellular carrier in the U.S. Most recently, he co-chaired the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.
Now, it is no secret that Senator Hagel has his critics, but let us take a closer look at who has endorsed his nomination.
A bi-partisan group of 13 former Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, and National Security Advisors from the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations sent a letter to the Senate expressing their support for Senator Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense arguing that he is ``uniquely qualified to meet the challenges facing the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform.'' They continued: Our extensive experience working with Senator Hagel over the years has left us confident that he has the necessary background to succeed in the job of leading the largest federal agency.
He has also received endorsements from 11 senior retired military leaders, over fifty Ambassadors and statesmen, and numerous veterans' organizations.
[[Page S846]] A group of ten former U.S. Ambassadors--including four former Ambassadors to Israel--argued that: We can think of few more qualified, more non-partisan, more courageous or better equipped to head the Department of Defense at this critical moment in strengthening America's role in the world.
The group of retired Generals and Admirals from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy--including General Anthony Zinni, General Brent Scowcroft, and Admiral William Fallon--went even further. In an open letter, they argued that Senator Hagel ``would be a strong leader'' as the next Pentagon chief and that he's ``eminently qualified for the job.'' But, more importantly, they believe that he understands the challenges that our warfighters face and is the person who can best lead the Pentagon.
And, even with all the accusations about Senator Hagel's views on Israel, Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that ``[Senator Hagel] certainly regards Israel as a true and natural U.S. ally.'' Clearly, those of us here in the Senate who support Senator Hagel's nomination are not alone in believing he will make a fine Secretary of Defense and will serve our nation, once again, with distinction.
Make no mistake, difficult challenges lie ahead. We are transitioning out of Afghanistan, but its future remains uncertain, and the threat of global terror endures, particularly in North Africa. We are on the verge of seeing massive cuts to the Pentagon's budget due to sequestration, which will negatively impact readiness and the defense industrial base. The nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea move forward, and new tests and provocations continue, including in areas such as cybersecurity.
In my view, Senator Hagel has the insight, experience, and know-how to take on this daunting agenda and help protect American lives and U.S. national security interests. I look forward to supporting his nomination as the next Secretary of Defense, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, is the remainder of the time reserved for the Hagel nomination or is it just open? The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is. There is 20 minutes, with 10 minutes on each side.
Mr. LEVIN. And the vote is to take place at 4:30? The PRESIDING OFFICER. Yes.
Mr. LEVIN. And the time is evenly divided? The PRESIDING OFFICER. I think it is safe to say that is accurate.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, 5 weeks ago Senator Hagel was warmly introduced at his nomination hearing by two former chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Sam Nunn and Senator John Warner, who represent the best bipartisan tradition of the Senate and our committee. As a matter of fact, the Presiding Officer, Senator Manchin, was present at the time when that presentation was made by Senators Nunn and Warner, and he was a witness to how powerful their testimony in support of Senator Hagel was.
Senator Nunn told the committee: I believe that our Nation is fortunate to have a nominee for Secretary of Defense with the character, the experience, the courage, and the leadership that Chuck Hagel would bring to this position.
He said: There are many essential characteristics and values that a Secretary of Defense should possess in our dangerous and challenging world.
And he named a few of them, including someone who sets aside fixed ideology and biases to evaluate all options and then provides his or her candid judgment to the President and to the Congress. He also named this characteristic: someone who pays attention to people with the best ideas regardless of their party affiliation.
And then Senator Warner said: Folks, there is an old saying in the combat Army infantry and Marine Corps. ``Certain men are asked to take the point,'' which means to get out and lead in the face of the enemy. Chuck Hagel did that as a sergeant in Vietnam. If confirmed, Chuck Hagel will do it again, this time not before a platoon, but before every man and woman and their families in the Armed Services.
Facing Senator Hagel, he said this: You will lead them. And they will know in their hearts we have one of our own.
Earlier today the Senate acted in a bipartisan fashion in voting to end the filibuster of this nomination by a very substantial vote.
If confirmed, Senator Hagel would be the first former enlisted man and the first veteran of the Vietnam war to serve as Secretary of Defense. This background gives Senator Hagel an invaluable perspective not only with respect to the difficult decisions and recommendations a Secretary of Defense must make regarding the use of force and the commitment of U.S. troops overseas but also with respect to the day-to- day decisions a Secretary must make to ensure that our men and women in uniform and their families receive the support and assistance they need and deserve.
Our country faces major challenges. Abroad, we face challenges from Afghanistan, where the Department of Defense faces key decisions about the pace of the drawdown between now and the end of 2014, decisions about the size and the composition of a residual force, and decisions about the terms and conditions for our ongoing presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
Elsewhere overseas, we face the ongoing threat of Iran's nuclear weapons program, the destruction and instability caused by Syria's civil war, and the outgrowth of al-Qaida affiliates in ungoverned regions, including Yemen, Somalia, and north Africa.
We also face extremely difficult issues here at home. We have been warned that sequestration and a yearlong continuing resolution risk creating a hollow force and could confront our military leaders with the untenable choice between sending troops into harm's way without adequate training and equipment or being unable to take on certain missions at all. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has described the impact of this budget crisis on the Department of Defense as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Now as much as anytime in the recent past, our men and women in uniform need a Secretary of Defense to guide them through difficult situations around the world and to defend their interests here at home. The President needs a Secretary of Defense in whom he has trust, who will give him unvarnished advice, a person of integrity and one who has a personal understanding of the consequences of decisions relative to the use of military force.
It is time to end the uncertainty relative to the leadership at the Pentagon. The time has come to now confirm Chuck Hagel as our next Secretary of Defense, and I hope the Senate will, on a bipartisan basis, soon do exactly that.
Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second? There appears to be a sufficient second.
The question is, Shall the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of Charles Timothy Hagel, of Nebraska, to be Secretary of Defense.
The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk called the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Warren). Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote? Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. Lautenberg) is necessarily absent.