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Entries in Chuck Hagel (23)

Saturday
May252013

Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WEST POINT, N.Y.) -- Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military.

“You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stops it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect and dignity for every member of the military and society,” Hagel said as he delivered the commencement address at West Point. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal, a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.”

“We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead,” he said.

Hagel’s remarks at the esteemed military academy came during the same week as a U.S. Army sergeant was accused of secretly taking dozens of photos and videotaping naked female West Point cadets over five years.

President Obama addressed the issue of sexual assault in his speech at the commencement ceremonies for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Friday, telling the graduates that there is “no place” for sexual assaults in the military.

“We must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we’ve seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide,” Obama said at the Naval Academy commencement ceremony Friday. “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.  That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they’ve got no place in the greatest military on Earth.”

Over the past month, the military has dealt with a number of sexual assault scandals, causing military leaders and the president to speak out against the problem.

Earlier this month, the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for alleged sexual battery, and the Army  announced that the coordinator of a sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, was under investigation “for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.”

The Pentagon reported this month that 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2012, a 37 percent increase since last year.

The figure, coupled with the recent sexual assault cases involving those charged with leading programs to prevent such incidents, led Hagel to order the retraining, re-credentialing and re-screening of all sexual assault prevention coordinators and military recruiters.

Several members of Congress have proposed legislation aiming to stop the sexual assaults occurring in the military.

Earlier this month, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill which would take the prosecution of sexual assaults in the military out of the chain of command, preventing commanders from handling the cases of their subordinates.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Chuck Hagel Sworn In as New Defense Secretary

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley(WASHINGTON) -- Chuck Hagel has been sworn in as the new secretary of defense, Pentagon spokesman George Little confirms.

The swearing-in ceremony was held privately Wednesday morning inside Hagel's new offices and attended by family members and his immediate office staff.

Upon arriving at the Pentagon Wednesday for his first day on the job, Hagel was greeted by reporters and Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who will serve as Hagel's military aide.  Waldhauser also held the same position under Leon Panetta, Hagel's predecessor.

Later Wednesday morning, Hagel will address the staff at the Pentagon.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Senate Confirms Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a tough two-month battle characterized by tough interrogation and a partisan divide, the Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Chuck Hagel -- President Obama's nominee -- as secretary of defense Tuesday afternoon.

The vote was called at 5:07 p.m. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was in the chair.

Only four Republicans broke party lines to vote in Hagel's favor. They included Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Rand Paul of Kentucky, though Paul had voted against moving forward with the vote earlier Tuesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., did not vote.

Before a cloture vote to close the debate and bring Hagel's nomination to a vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., warned Republicans against continuing their partisan fight against the nominee.

"Senate Republicans have delayed for the better part of two weeks for one reason: partisanship," Reid said. "Politically motivated delays send a terrible signal to allies around the world, and they send a terrible signal to tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan, other parts of world and those valiant people who are serving here in the United States. For the sake of national security, it's time to set aside this partisanship."

The measure to move forward passed by a vote of 71-27. It needed at least 60 votes to pass.

Some Republican senators took the time before the vote to take a last stab at Hagel.

John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was one of 15 senators who sent a letter to Obama last week calling for him to withdraw his nomination of Hagel, said Hagel had proved that he's ill-prepared to assume the defense secretary post.

"There's simply no way to sugarcoat it," Cornyn said. "Sen. Hagel's performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept, and we should not be installing a defense secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job and who holds dangerously misguided views on some of the most important issues facing national security policy for our country. Sen. Hagel is clearly the wrong man for the job."

The Senate returned Tuesday after a week off from debating Hagel's pros and cons.

Hagel succeeds Leon Panetta as defense secretary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb262013

Senate Expected to Vote on Hagel Secretary of Defense Nomination

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a battle lasting nearly two months, characterized by tough interrogation and a partisan divide, lawmakers are expected to confirm President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate returns on Tuesday after a week off from debating Hagel's merit.  Republicans blocked a cloture vote to confirm Hagel on Valentine's Day, pushing the decision back until after their President's Day recess.

Democrats framed that rejection as a filibuster, while Republicans said they needed another week to discuss the candidate's record.

"This is a very controversial nominee, there is a desire to not end debate now," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Feb. 14.  "We feel like come back next week, after the break, unless there is some bombshell I'd be ready to move on to vote."

Ten days later, GOP Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona predicted the Senate will go through with a vote on Tuesday.  The nomination is likely to pass but with many "no" votes from the GOP.

A group of 15 Republicans sent a letter to Obama last week asking him to withdraw Hagel's nomination.  Coburn, one of the senators who signed that letter, said the fight among lawmakers over Hagel's qualifications would weaken him should he become secretary.

"I like Chuck Hagel as an individual, but the fact is, in modern times, we haven't had one defense secretary that's had more than three votes against him," Coburn said on Fox News Sunday this past weekend.  "And you're going to have 40 votes against him, or 35 votes.  And that sends a signal to our allies as well as our foes that he does not have broad support in the U.S. Congress, which limits his ability to carry out his job."

McCain did not sign the letter.

"I do not believe that Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense, but I do believe that elections have consequences -- unfortunately," McCain told CNN's Candy Crowley last Sunday on State of the Union, explaining why he chose not to sign.  "And the president of the United States was reelected."

Obama announced his support for Hagel two weeks before the kick-off of his second term.

Hagel is a former GOP senator from Nebraska and Purple-Heart-decorated Vietnam veteran.  If confirmed, he would be the first former enlisted member of the Armed Forces to serve as secretary of defense.  But he has been an unpopular pick from the start, with groups claiming he was anti-Israel and anti-gay rights.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will not be in Washington, D.C., to attend Hagel’s confirmation hearing.  Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday that Panetta, who is at home in California, will watch it on C-SPAN.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb252013

Panetta Will Watch Hagel Confirmation from Home in California

DoD photo(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has no plans to come back to Washington to attend Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing, scheduled to take place Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Monday.

Panetta, who is at home in California, will watch it on C-SPAN, Little said.

Over the last few weeks Panetta has openly expressed frustration with Congress over the confirmation hold-up of the former Republican senator. At an event honoring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nearly two weeks ago, Panetta joked that Congress should give him a Valentine’s Day gift and let him and his wife “get the hell out of town.”

But that wish was not to be, as Senate Republicans pushed the vote until after the congressional recess, forcing Panetta to take one more trip as defense secretary to Brussels for the NATO defense ministers summit last week. Following the meeting, he returned to California, where Little says he will stay.

Panetta has also expressed dismay over the budget cuts the Pentagon will be forced to make if sequestration happens on March 1.  Last week he notified Congress of the potential 800,000 civilian employees who will have to be furloughed if the sequestration happens.

“For more than a year and a half, the president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I have repeatedly voiced our deep concerns over the half a trillion dollars in automatic across-the-board cuts that would be imposed under sequestration and the severe damage that would do both to this department and to our national defense,” Panetta said in a letter to Pentagon employees. “I can assure you that, if we have to implement furloughs, all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days’ notice prior to executing a furlough and your benefits will be protected to the maximum extent possible.”

For months, Little has been communicating to journalists and the public about how deeply these cuts will hurt the defense department and America’s national security.

Last week, Little told reporters traveling with the secretary to the NATO meeting that the sequester will not only harm America’s military readiness, but also its military commitments around the world. Little said that, for example, training with European allies and rotational deployments of U.S. forces to Europe could be affected.

“You put this all together, lack of U.S. readiness equals NATO lack of readiness,” he said.

He reiterated that point to reporters Monday.

“We have not been overhyping this,” he said. “This is something we have been very forthright about for 18 months, and we will continue to express our opposition to a mechanism that will do harm to our national defense and could — if taken to the absurd extreme — hollow out the force.”

But Little is not only the Pentagon’s messenger on sequestration; he, too, would be directly affected. The position of Defense Department Spokesperson is not politically appointed and not subject to Senate confirmation, so he would not be eligible for a furlough exemption.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb212013

Chuck Hagel and Hamas’ Fake Friends?

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Why was Chuck Hagel skewered for taking money from an apparently nonexistent group?

This week, the dangers of the D.C. rumor mill were laid bare when New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman posited that he was the unwitting source of a talking point used to bash Obama’s embattled nominee to take over as secretary of defense.

Two weeks ago, Breitbart.com reported that Hagel had allegedly taken money from a group called “Friends of Hamas” – a tidbit that played into largely-GOP-voiced concerns over Hagel’s opinions and record on Israel. The conservative news site attributed its reporting to unnamed Senate sources.

There’s just one problem: Friends of Hamas doesn’t seem to exist.

After Slate’s Dave Weigel reported on the “Friends of Hamas” rumor last week, Friedman wrote that he unwittingly started it by inventing “Friends of Hamas” as a joke with a Senate source:

    On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?

    Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France?" And: What about “Friends of Hamas?"

    The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.


Breitbart.com has responded, claiming Friedman’s source was not its source. The Senate aide who told Breitbart about “Friends of Hamas” now says that “I have received this information from three separate sources, none of whom was Friedman,” according to the site.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb142013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel? Not So Fast

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was hoping Thursday would be his last day at the Pentagon.  The White House was hoping it would have a new Defense Department secretary by Friday.

But not so fast.  It now looks like Democrats don’t have the votes to get Hagel confirmed -- at least not yet.

That’s because Republicans are determined to block a straight up-or-down vote -- at least for now -- until Hagel turns over more information on his financial disclosure form and the Obama administration answers more questions about last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Democrats are attempting to force a clean vote by Friday, but will need 60 votes to overcome Republican objections.  And, as of right now, top Senate Democratic aides say they fear they don’t have the votes.

Ultimately, it would seem that Hagel is a shoe-in: All 55 Senate Democrats support him and so do two Republicans (Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi).  Three others have suggested they might oppose him but would not filibuster his nomination (Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska).  Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said the same thing.

But here’s the catch: Republicans are saying Hagel and the White House have stonewalled their requests for documents related to his nomination and that’s why they won’t allow a vote at this time.

An aide to Blunt told ABC News that the senator does not think there should be a vote this week because Hagel, 66, has not turned over all the requested information and, Blunt believes, the Senate has not fully debated the nomination.

The most serious issue is a Feb. 6 letter signed by 20 senators demanding more information on his financial disclosure (speeches, foreign income, etc.).  Hagel and the White House have refused to comply. 

Others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are demanding more information on Benghazi.

Panetta has made no secret of his desire to get back to his home in Monterey, Calif., but a senior Defense Department official told ABC News that Panetta is prepared to stay in office until Hagel is confirmed. 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb122013

Hagel Nomination Heads to Senate After Partisan Committee Vote

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next secretary of defense has been sent to the full Senate, following a 14-to-11 committee vote that split along partisan lines. Tuesday’s vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee reflects how unpopular Hagel’s nomination has been among his former Republican Senate colleagues.

Two hours of debate prior to the vote were indicative of the partisan divide over his nomination.  Republicans assailed his Senate voting record and his qualifications for the job; some Democrats expressed lukewarm support and defended his character.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he hopes to move the Hagel nomination to the full Senate sometime this week. He said that he will not honor any holds placed on Hagel’s nomination.

Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that while a number of Republican members of the Armed Services Committee have concerns about Hagel, he did not know if this was the view of everyone in the Republican caucus.

McConnell said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if there is a cloture vote on Hagel when his nomination goes before the full Senate.  A cloture vote requires 60 votes to end debate on the Senate floor.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb122013

Sen. Inhofe Wants to Delay Full Vote on Defense Secretary Nominee

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Add Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe to the list of Republicans who want to hold up the nomination of Chuck Hagel by the full Senate to become the next secretary of defense.

Inhofe, the ranking GOP member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledges that Hagel, President Obama's pick to replace Leon Panetta, has enough votes to get approved by the panel when lawmakers make their decision on Tuesday.

However, Inhofe says he's determined to drag out a vote by the full Senate for as long as possible, essentially forcing Democrats to make certain they have 60 votes to assure confirmation.

There are 53 Democrats, meaning the party needs to count on two independents and at least five Republicans so Hagel can become the next defense secretary.

Inhofe is angered by Hagel's past stance on Israel, explaining, "Each day that goes by will make it more difficult for Democrats who say they are pro-Israel to hold out.  I want everyone to be very clear about his past statements and his positions."

Hagel insists he's pro-Israel and contends his previous positions have been misunderstood.

Earlier this week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said until he knows exactly how Obama acted immediately after the U.S consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked last Sept. 11, he will attempt to hold up confirmation votes on Hagel and John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb112013

Sen. Graham Threatens to Hold Up Vote on Hagel, Brennan Nominations

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham says until he knows exactly how President Obama acted immediately after the U.S consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked last Sept. 11, he will attempt to hold up confirmation votes on the White House picks for secretary of defense and CIA director.

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday, the South Carolina Republican said, "We know nothing about what the president did on the night of Sept. 11, during a time of national crisis, and the American people need to know what their commander-in-chief did, if anything, during the eight-hour attack."

Obama tapped Chuck Hagel to become Pentagon chief and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan as the next director of the nation's top spy agency.  While both men went through contentious hearings, Hagel and Brennan are expected to be confirmed.

However, while Graham has promised not to filibuster their nominations, he seems intent on delaying the vote until the White House releases more details on the consulate assault in Libya that left four Americans dead and put the administration's credibility about its initial response to the siege into question.

Graham, a steadfast critic of the administration, told Face the Nation, "This was incredibly mismanaged. And what we know now, it seems to be a very disengaged president."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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