SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): All right. Alrighty. Here we go. Y’all — are y’all set?
Sen. LEVIN: (Sounds gavel.) Good morning, everybody.
The committee meets today to consider the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.
But before we begin, I want to first welcome Senator Inhofe as the new ranking Republican on our committee, succeeding Senator McCain. Senator McCain has been a great partner over the last six years, and I thank him for all that he has done to get our bills enacted, for all of his leadership on a host of issues, for his support of the work of this committee and for always keeping our hearings lively. Senator Inhofe has shown his strong commitment to the national defense over his 20 years on this committee over his 20 years on this committee, and I know that we’re going to work well together to continue the bipartisan tradition of the committee.
We’re also pleased to welcome the eight senators who are joining the committee this year, both those who are new to the Senate and those who are new to our committee: Senators Donnelly, Hirono, Kaine and King on the Democratic side and Senators Blunt, Cruz, Fischer and Lee on the Republican side. You will all find that this is a wonderful committee where we work across party lines to support our troops and their families and their national defense mission.
I’d also like to pause for a moment to offer my thanks and the thanks of our committee to Secretary Panetta, who delayed his retirement and his return to California to serve our country first as director of central intelligence and then as secretary of defense. Secretary Panetta has provided a steady hand at the Department of Defense through two very difficult years and has earned our great respect and our appreciation.
Finally, before we get started, I’d like to announce that the committee will be holding hearings next week on Benghazi and the week thereafter on the impact of a sequester on the Department of Defense.
Senator Hagel, we welcome you to the Armed Services Committee as an old friend of those of us with whom you served during your years in the Senate. There are few jobs that are more demanding than the position to which you’ve been nominated. The hours are long and extremely challenging, and it requires sacrifices from both the secretary and his family.
We traditionally give our nominees an opportunity to introduce their families at these hearings, and we would welcome your doing so during your opening statement.
If confirmed, Senate Hagel would be the first former enlisted man and the first veteran of the Vietnam War to serve as secretary of defense. You can’t read Senator Hagel’s account of his military service and not be impressed by it. As Senator explained a few years ago, quote, “probably most fundamental for me, when we talk of going to war, we need to think it through carefully, not just for the political and the geopolitical and the diplomatic and the economic consequences — and those are important. But at least for me,” he said, “this old infantry sergeant thinks about when I was in Vietnam in 1968. … Someone needs to represent that perspective in our government as well. The people in Washington make the policy, but it’s the little guys who come back in the body bags.”
Senator Hagel’s background provides an invaluable perspective, not only with respect to the difficult decisions and recommendations that 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 that a secretary must make to ensure that our men and women in uniform and their families receive the support and assistance that they need and deserve. It would be a positive message for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in harm’s way around the world to know that one of their own holds the highest office in the Department of Defense and that he has their backs.
Senator Hagel, you would be in a position to make key recommendations regarding Afghanistan, where we are down to the pre- surge level of troops with 66,000 military personnel in the country. The secretary of defense is called upon to advise the president on the size and mission of a post-2014 so-called residual force and the pace of the drawdown between now and the end of 2014. The key to this transition is ensuring the readiness and ability of Afghan security forces to take over the defense of their own country. I’ve always believed that that should be our main mission and its key to success. During my trip to Afghanistan with Senator Jack Reed last month, we heard from U.S. commanders on the ground that Afghan security forces are operating on their own on most operations, including conducting more than 85 percent of operations with limited or no U.S. support in the difficult Regional Command East. Yet difficult obstacles remain to the process of reducing our forces and shifting responsibility to Afghan fores, including the difficulty of negotiating a status-of- forces agreement, including recent reports that the Afghan government might slow down a successful program of growing and training the Afghan local police, and including questions about the current plan to reduce the size of the Afghan national security forces from 352,000 to around 230,000 after 2015.
We face a number of new and growing threats elsewhere in the world, such as the ongoing threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the increasingly destructive civil war in Syria with the risk that conflict could result in the loss of control over that country’s substantial stockpile of chemical weapons. There is also the continuing instability in other countries affected by the Arab Spring; the growth of al-Qaida affiliates in ungoverned regions, including Yemen, Somalia and North Africa; and the continued unpredictable behavior of the nuclear armed regime in North Korea.
We face these challenges at a time when the DOD budget is under unique pressure as a result of cuts previously agreed upon by Congress, the budgeting by continuing resolution and the impending threat of a sequester. Secretary Panetta has said that a sequester would be devastating for our military. Senator Hagel’s views today on the continuing resolution and the sequester will be of great interest of this committee and to the nation.
Those of us who have served with Senator Hagel in the Senate know that he is a man who is not afraid to speak his mind.
Senator Hagel has made a number of statements over the course of his career which committee members will ask him about during today’s hearing. For example, Senator Hagel has stated that unilateral sanctions against Iran, quote, “are exactly the wrong approach” and that, quote, they’re — “the worst thing we can do would be to try to isolate Iran.”
I believe that while effective multilateral sanctions are preferable, that unilateral sanctions are an important part of the approach that the Obama administration has followed and that Congress has supported, and it appears that sanctions are producing tremendous pressure on Iran.
Another statement which has raised concern is Senator Hagel’s recommendation that we conduct, quote, direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the government of Iran. Now, while there’s value in communicating with our adversaries, the formulation used by Senator Hagel seem to imply a willingness to talk to Iran on some issues that I believe that most of us would view as non-negotiable, and therefore any willingness to talk to Iran would need to be highly conditional.
Senator Hagel’s reassurance to me in my office that he supports the Obama administration’s strong stance against Iran is significant, and we look forward to hearing from Senator Hagel today in some depth on that subject.
We will also be interested in Senator Hagel’s addressing troubling statements that he has made about Israel and its supporters here in the United States, a statement in 2008 that our policy of no engagement with the Syrians, quote, has isolated us more than the Syrians and a 2009 statement that we should not isolate Hamas, a terrorist organization.
So there’s much to be explored at this hearing. But as we struggle with the difficult security challenges facing our nation, the president needs to have 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. Senator Hagel certainly has those critically important qualifications to lead the Department of Defense.
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We — first of all, I’d like to echo your remarks about Secretary Panetta and the work that he’s done. I don’t see him here today, but I do recall when he was first nominated I was probably one of the first phone calls to him, and I’ve enjoyed working with him. With Senator McCain, the same way. I’ll certainly continue to depend on his counsel, and you and I have worked very well together in the past.
Mr. Chairman, before I continue the opening statement, I’d like to raise a concern about the sufficiency of materials provided to this committee by our nominee. Senator Hagel was requested to provide the speeches he’s delivered over the last five years, yet his initial submission was for only four speeches, even though, as was noticed by — where’s — by Senator Cruz that he had honoraria for 12 speeches but submitted four speeches. Well, we received some more but only last — late last night, and so I think it would have been much helpful — a lot more helpful if we’d received them before that, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get that information before we have to cast votes on this nominee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The president’s nomination of Senator Hagel to serve as the next secretary of defense comes at a critical junction in our military and national security interests. Senator Hagel is a good man who has a record of service. I first learned of that when he was first elected, and I have been a great admirer of the time that he spent in Vietnam, the — with the sacrifices that he made.
And while his service is commendable, the fate of his nomination should be decided by the totality of his record. It is the votes that he’s cast and the statements that he’s made over the many years of his career that will inform us as to his judgment, his view of America’s role in the world and his view of the military we require to support that role.
As I told Senator Hagel in my office some time ago, two weeks ago — over two weeks ago, I guess it was — that after a long and careful review of his record and these things that he has said and the things that I have personally experienced with him, that we’re too philosophically opposed on the pressing issues facing our country and — for me to support his nomination.
Therefore, I told him I would not be supporting his nomination.
His record demonstrates what I view as a lack of steadfast opposition to policies that diminish U.S. power and influence throughout the world, as well as a recent trend of policy reversals that seem based on political expediency rather than on core beliefs.
The — on many of the security challenges facing the U.S. interests around the world, Senator Hagel’s record is deeply troubling and out of the mainstream. Too often it seems he’s willing to subscribe to a worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends. I remember, quoting Hiram Mann, who said, “No man survives when freedom fails,/ The best men rot in filthy jails,/ And those who cried, ‘Appease, appease’/ Are hanged by those they tried to please.”
The — in 2000 — and I would mention a few of these things, because they’re going to come out in this hearing. In 2000 an overwhelming majority of senators sent a letter to President Clinton reaffirming our solidarity with Israel. I was one of them who carried that letter around. I remember it well. And Senator Hagel is one of just four who refused to sign that letter, and I’m sure he’ll want to comment about that.
In 2001 he was one of just two senators who voted against a bill extending harsh sanctions against Iran. A year later he urged the Bush administration to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization. Senator Hagel voted against a resolution designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a group responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a terrorist organization.
And on multiple occasions he has advocated for direct negotiations with Iran, a regime that continues to repress its people, doggedly pursue a nuclear weapon capability and employ terrorist proxies, including Hamas, Hezbollah, to threaten the security of Israel and the region.
Senator Hagel has also been an outspoken supporter of the nuclear disarmament and the Global Zero movement. We’re very sensitive to that. We know that the president has said many times he wants a nuclear-free world and I know that Senator Hagel is right there with him. But at a time when North Korea’s belligerent actions threatened our allies with their nuclear capabilities and security of our own nation and that of our allies, why would we want to unilaterally disarm ourselves of nuclear capability?
Of late, however, Senator Hagel has expressed views in meetings with Senate colleagues, I’ve been informed, and through the press that appear glaringly at odds with many of the — the — of his long-held positions, particularly on issues dealing with Israel, Iran and our nuclear arsenal. This apparent willingness to walk back or alter his position, possibly for the sake of political expediency, on such important issues is deeply troubling and sends a concerning message to our allies and our adversaries alike.
Though I respect Senator Hagel, his record to date demonstrates that he would be a staunch advocate for the continuation of the misguided policies of the president’s first term. Retreating from America’s unique global leadership role and shrinking the military will not make America safer. On the contrary, it will embolden our enemies, endanger our allies and provide opportunity for nations that do not share our interests to fill a global leadership vacuum we leave behind. It is for these reasons that I believe that he’s the wrong person to lead the Pentagon at this perilous and consequential time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe.
We have two former chairman of this committee with us to introduce Senator Hagel. No senator has had two dearer friends or better mentors than I have had with Senators Nunn and Warner, and I just want to welcome them back to this committee. I don’t have to tell them that they’re among dear, dear friends, those of us who have known them and who work with them and have worked with them. So it’s a real, real treat, actually, to welcome you back to the committee.
And I think I’ll call on you, Senator Nunn, first. I think we’ll call on you alphabetically. I don’t have any better way to do it. So, Sam.
Mr. : He’s the senior man.
Sen. LEVIN: OK. Sam, welcome back.
SAM NUNN: First, for the record, seniority and age are two different things. So I say to my — Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe and members of the Armed Services Committee, I am honored to join John Warner in presenting our friend Chuck Hagel to the committee and recommending that Chuck be confirmed as our nation’s 24th secretary of defense.
I think it’s worth noting that 68 years ago this month John Warner enlisted in the U.S. Navy to fight in World War II. That was the start of his great career of public service. And John, I’m very proud to be here by your side. Mr. Chairman, I spent a lot of my Senate career sitting in your seat waiting on a quorum. Congratulations on not having to do that today. (Laughter.)
Sen. LEVIN: I don’t know how long it’ll last, but thanks for pointing it out.
Mr. NUNN: Mr. Chairman, I think it should be noted that you and Senator McCain have effectively guided this committee in its important role as a compelling and absolutely essential voice for a strong and effective defense. Together you’ve managed to pass authorization bills even during contentious times. And I thank you both for your dedicated service to our nation.
I am confident, Mr. Chairman and Senator Inhofe, that you will continue this tradition and that Senator McCain will still be a very, very valuable member and voice on this 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. First, Chuck is acutely aware that even in an age of rapid technological advances, our military capability and effectiveness depend on the quality and the morale of the people who serve our nation in uniform as well as the families that support them. Chuck received two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, and when he returned home, he continued to fight for veterans and for active-duty military personnel. He knows that our people are our strongest asset.
Second, Chuck’s experience in Vietnam shaped his life and his perspective. War, for Chuck Hagel, is not an abstraction. I’m confident that, if confirmed, he will ask the hard and the smart questions before sending troops into battle. Chuck Hagel knows that the United States has vital interests that are worth fighting for and dying for. He also knows that war should be a last resort and that our nation must effectively use all of our tools, not limited only to our military, to protect our important and — to protect our vital interests.
Certainly, Mr. Chairman, there is a tension in these values, but it is a tension that we should welcome in the thought process and in the advice that our secretary of defense gives to our commander in chief and to this Congress. From our service together on the Defense Policy Board in recent years, I know that Chuck Hagel has a clear worldview and that it aligns with the mainstream of U.S. foreign and defense policy and also with President Obama. Chuck Hagel believes that we must build and preserve American strength as a force for good in the world. He recognizes that protecting our interests requires strong allies and friends as well as strong American leadership.
Third, Chuck has the depth of experience and the leadership skills required to handle this tough job. There’s certainly no shortage of security challenges around the world, as this committee knows and as you have enumerated this morning, Mr. Chairman. A very large and impressive group of former Cabinet officials and public servants from both sides of the aisle have said that they trust Chuck Hagel with this important responsibility. And I strongly — I strongly agree.
Fourth, on the fiscal side, I’m confident that Chuck will be a powerful advocate for a common-sense approach both within the administration and here on Capitol Hill regarding fiscal challenges to the defense budget. He understands that our defense capabilities are being threatened on two budget fronts: first, sequestration, with its damaging across-the-board, up-front budget cuts; and second, rapidly rising costs within the department’s budget, including but not limited to health care, personnel and retirement costs.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I believe that Chuck will work effectively with this committee and Congress in meeting these budget challenges while protecting our people, protecting our capabilities and also while ensuring that the United States has the strongest military in the world.
Chuck Hagel was a soldier and a senator, but he has been also a highly successful executive in both the public and private sectors. He built a successful company from the ground up. He is a man who knows how to prioritize and he knows how to make tough decisions. He will listen to and carefully consider the views of our military and civilian leaders and guide them as necessary.
Fifth, I believe that Chuck Hagel will be a balanced and responsible voice on nuclear weapons policy. President Reagan said it often and said it well: A nuclear war cannot be won and it must not be fought.
Mr. Chairman, as this committee knows, the risks of a global nuclear war have, thankfully, substantially declined since the breakup of the Soviet Union, but with nine nations possessing nuclear weapons, with nuclear weapons-usable material and knowledge spread across the globe and with terrorists ready to use a nuclear weapon if they manage to buy, steal or make one, we face enormous risk that a nuclear weapon will be used. If proliferation continues in countries like Iran and North Korea, and if we do not secure nuclear materials and weapons globally, the odds of use will go up even more.
Six years ago, George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and I made the argument that we should reduce reliance on nuclear weapons as a vital contribution to preserve — to preventing their proliferation, keeping them out of dangerous hands, and ultimately, ending them as a threat to the world. Two-thirds of living former secretaries of state and defense and national security advisers have agreed with the vision and the steps that we outlined, including substantial work on verification and enforcement.
Mr. Chairman, I hope that all members of the committee and the Senate will read the recent statement by four credible and very experienced Americans — Ambassador Tom Pickering, Ambassador Richard Burt, General James Cartwright and General John Sheehan — about their work with work with Chuck Hagel on nuclear weapons. They made it abundantly clear that they oppose unilateral moves, they support bilateral negotiations and they support verifiable U.S.-Russian arms reductions, to be followed by multilateral negotiations, bringing other nuclear weapons countries into a serious and verifiable process of reductions.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, there are essential — many essential characteristics and values that a secretary of defense should possess in our dangerous and challenging world. Let me name just two or three that I think are very important: first, someone who’s well informed, has an open mind, engages in critical thinking, who is capable of and who seeks out independent thought; second, someone who sets aside fixed ideologies and biases to honestly evaluate all options and then provides his or her candid judgment to the president and to the Congress; third, someone who pays attention to people with the best ideas, regardless of their party affiliation. No one is perfect. We all know that. But Chuck Hagel comes as close as anyone I know to having all of these qualities.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Inhofe and members of the committee, I served for 24 years on this important committee, and I recognize that much has changed since I retired 16 years ago. I continue to believe, however, that every major problem we face today requires the best input from both political parties if we are to arrive at a solution. I believe that Chuck Hagel will seek that input. I urge his support by this committee, and I urge the confirmation of his nomination by the U.S. Senate.
I thank the chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Nunn.
JOHN WARNER (former Republican senator from Virginia): Thank you, Mr. chairman. It’s a very moving experience for me to re-enter this room. I served on this committee for 30 years. In that period of time, Senator Nunn was the chairman and I was the ranking. But I want to say to you — and Jim Inhofe. Jim and I have been good friends and we worked together not only on this committee but other committees, and you will be a splendid ranking member. You follow in the steps of my dear and valued friend of so many years, John McCain. And the leadership of this committee throughout my 30 years in the Senate has been drawn from the ranks of the strongest and the best of its membership.
And we have it today, and I have every reason we’ll have it tomorrow.
And I’d like to say a word to the new members of this committee. As I look back over a very fortunate record of public service for many years, no chapter of my career was more important than service on this committee. You will carry with you for the rest of your life the recollections of the work that you’ve done for one of America’s most valued assets: the men and the women and their families of the armed services of the United States.
I’ve written out a nice, long statement, and then last night late I got Sam Nunn’s statement and Chuck Hagel’s statement, and I said that I felt that another statement just wouldn’t do. I’d rather say a — just a few words from the heart about the importance of what we have by way of decision before all of us today.
I thank you, Senator Nunn, for that reference of 68 years ago in the Navy. I did know more than every other kid on my block. We all went. But I’d like to remind you that a half-century ago, you served in the Coast Guard. (Laughter.) So Grandpa, here’s another grandpa.
Good friends, we thank Chuck Hagel and Mrs. Hagel and his family, because as a — if confirmed, an enormous commitment by the family to this position. And having known Lilibet and, slightly, your children, you have made that decision to offer yourself — once again offer yourself for continued public service. Public service is a privilege. I’ve always regarded it as such.
And the second reason — I won’t give a long statement — this statement by Senator Hagel will soon be shared with you. And I read it through not once, twice, but again this morning. And I say this very carefully. I have read the statements that have been placed before the members of this committee for those 30 years. I have never read a more carefully prepared statement, a more forthright statement and one that has no hedges or deviations. He hits firm on those issues that will make the decision in your minds and that of your colleagues as to whether or not he is qualified to take on this very, very important assignment.
I first entered the Pentagon in 1969 during the war in Vietnam under Melvin Laird. Jim Schlesinger followed, and I’ve worked with every secretary of defense since that period of time, all different, all with their strengths and, indeed, some of their weaknesses. But set forth in this is a series of commitments to you as a committee, to the members of the full Senate and to the American public as precisely what his goals are and what he will do, how he will serve the president, how he will give the president his best advice. And I know Chuck to give it very strongly.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about Chuck Hagel, the man that I served with for 12 years. My distinguished colleague and longtime friend Sam had gone when Chuck arrived at the Senate. The first year he was here, we had the annual defense authorization bill on the floor. And in those days, as it is today, that bill goes on that floor, that bill stays on that floor, sometime a couple of days, sometimes a week, sometimes broken up, but we get it through. And when it’s done, we go immediately back to our committee spaces and begin to write that bill and get it to the printer so that we can go to conference.
How many have we done that together, Senator Nunn, Senator Levin, Senator McCain, Senator Inhofe? Many times.
Well, the first year he was here, he watched that process. And when I’d taken the staff back to the committee room, surprisingly, he showed up. And I didn’t know him that well, although I’d studied his biography and I wanted to get to know him because of my deep and abiding interest in the Vietnam period, having served for five years in that period as secretary and undersecretary of the Navy. And he strode into the room, and I introduced him to the people. And he said to the staff, you’re one of the most impressive group of young people I’ve ever seen. I learned a lot. And he shared some of his stories as a simple but elegant soldier that he was. That’s the way he started. And thereafter he voted for every single final passage of the authorization bill, every single final passage of the appropriation bill.
He was honed and learned in that generation of Vietnam. And I’m so proud to have the affiliation of having been, yes, in comparative safety at the Pentagon, but I did go to the field of battle and see these young men and some women who engaged in that struggle. But Chuck Hagel brings with him the experience of having come home, come home to an America that was quite different than what I had experienced when my generation came home from World War II. We were welcomed with open arms. America at that time in Vietnam, and how well John McCain can remember this, was very divided. And when you wore your uniform back home, it didn’t see the same respect that it deserved for the sacrifices that you and your colleagues had committed. Chuck will never forget that. I will never forget it. John will never forget it. Today we welcome home, and we do it with the fullest heart, the young men and women. But there have been times in history when that was gone .
And so that honed him to be prepared to take on his responsibilities as he addresses the declining budget situation, which is going to be a challenge. And I am absolutely certain that he will stand up and fight as hard as two of your predecessors: Leon Panetta, you mentioned today; and Robert Gates. They gave their president loyalty, but they gave him their best advice and tough and fought for their troops and drilled down that they’ve got to maintain whatever budget, and sequester is not the route, but whatever budget, maintain morale and combat readiness, and also, ladies and gentlemen, that pillar of strength of our military system, the all-volunteer force. We had drafts in Vietnam. We saw the effects of that. And we decided as the nation to take a gamble to let every person who wished to wear the uniform given that opportunity and to volunteer. No one is forced in there. That has got to be maintained. This man has the experience and gravitas and the strength to protect the all-volunteer force.
I also was deeply impressed by the Senate in the manner in which it confirmed John Kerry. John Kerry was also in that generation, and he served his trials and tribulations and came home and faced that public in the same way Chuck did. The Senate confirmed him with a very, very strong vote, and they sent him away ready to take on the enormity of his responsibility.
Now, I mention that because in my experience, I’ve seen a good deal of camaraderie but a good deal of competition between the secretaries of defense and the secretaries of state. It’s just sort of built in there.
And sometimes a lot of sand gets in that gearbox, but it’s important to the United States that they, having the major jurisdiction over most of the policy issues, work as a team.
John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are a band of brothers out of Vietnam, with that special bond. And I’m sure that you will utilize that and remember — and make those two departments perform their function, best serve the president and to best serve the country.
So I’ve pretty well said everything I should say. I want to be brief because it’s important that this committee pursue its work. But as — again, Bob Gates, Leon Panetta set the bar for this century of those who take on this job. And you mentioned your long friendship and how you know both. I’d keep close contact. They’ve had the experience to deal with this president of the United States, and you are the president’s choice.
Folks, there’s 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 the their families in the armed services. You will lead them, and they will know in their hearts, we have one of our own.
You’re on your own, and good luck. (Laughter.)
Mr. : Thank you. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Well, we thank you both, Senator Warner, Senator Nunn, for your extraordinarily powerful introductions. And I just wish every member of the Senate and every American could have heard and, I hope, will heard — hear and read about what you’ve said here today about Chuck Hagel. And I also notice there’s another former senator who is a member of that band of brothers who’s with us today. I just noticed in the audience Max Cleland is here, and I want to welcome you, Max, too as an old friend of this committee and the Senate and of the nation.
So let me now call on Senator Hagel. And Senator Warner, Senator Nunn, again, thank you for your introductions. And you’re free to get back to your lives or to stay as you wish.
CHARLES HAGEL: Thank you, Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe and distinguished members of the committee. I am honored to come before you today as the president’s nominee to be secretary of defense.
First, as you suggested, Mr. Chairman, let me introduce my family: My wife, Lilibet; our son Ziller and our daughter Allyn are not with us today. Our son Ziller claims he’s taking a test. (Laughter.) We’ll confirm that later. But both are a son and daughter that Lilibet and I are very proud of, and I think like any proud father and any proud mother, you all know how I feel about that, as you have the same feelings about your children, the same way Lilibet and I feel about ours.
I also want to introduce my brother Tom, who served with me in Vietnam; my brother Mike, who is our number three brother and, I might add, who actually possesses any talent our family has. He has, in the Pentagon, 10 paintings as chairman of the Air Force artist guild over the years, and they are hanging in different locations in the Pentagon. So we have one brother of some acclaim. And one of us did make it, my brother Mike. Mike’s son is sitting behind him, Josh. He is one of three children that Mike has.
We have here also cousins, many friends, people I owe money to — (laughter) — and who now — who knows who else, since I’ve received some publicity over the weeks.
I want to also thank my friends Sam Nunn and John Warner. I want to thank them for their support, their encouragement and their friendship over many years. And as each of you who had the privilege of serving with those two senators, I too add my thanks for their tremendous service to our country. These two distinguished Americans represent what’s best about American public service and responsible bipartisanship. They have embodied both in their careers, long, distinguished careers, and are models for each of us.
And of course to my family and friends and my fellow veterans who are here, as has been noted, Max Cleland, Jan Scruggs, good friends, veterans from all wars who are here today who I worked with for many, many years — I’m grateful to them, not just to those friends and supporters and fellow veterans who are here, but those who are not. Thank you.
A life is only as good as the family and the friends you have and the people you surround yourself with. I also want to thank my friend Leon Panetta for his tremendous service to our country over so many years. If I’m given the privilege of succeeding him, it will be a high honor.
President Obama — for his confidence and trust in me, I thank him. I’m humbled by the opportunity and the possibility he has given me to serve our country once again. And I fully recognize the immense responsibilities of the secretary of defense. I assured the president that if I am confirmed by the United States Senate, I will always do my best. I will always do my best for our nation and for the men and women and their families who are called on to make the enormous sacrifices of military service. Their safety, success and welfare will always be at the forefront of the decisions I make.
I also assured the president that I would always provide him with my most honest and informed advice. I make that same commitment to this committee and to the Congress. If confirmed, I will reach out to the members of this committee for advice and collaboration. It will be a partnership, because the national security challenges America faces require it.
Our nation’s security is the highest priority of our leaders and our government. We cannot allow the work of confronting the great threats we face today to be held hostage to partisanship on either side of the aisle or by differences between the bodies represented in Articles 1 and 2 of our Constitution. The stakes are too high. Men and women of all political philosophies and parties and ideas die and fight for our country. As this committee knows so well, protecting our national security or committing a nation to war can never become political litmus tests.
I know Secretary Panetta has put a strong emphasis on reaching out to the Congress. I, like Leon, come from the Congress and respect and understand this institution’s indispensable role in setting policy and helping govern our country.
We’re all products of the forces that shape us. For me, there has been nothing more important than my life or a more defining influence on my life than my family, whether it was helping my mother raise four boys after my father, a World War II veteran, died suddenly at age 39 on Christmas Day or serving side by side my brother Tom in Vietnam or the wonderful miracle of my wife Lilibet and me being blessed with two beautiful children. That is who I am.
We each bring to our responsibilities frames of reference. These frames of reference are formed by our life’s experiences. They help instruct our judgments. We build out from those personal foundations by continually informing ourselves, listening and learning. Like each of you, I have a record, a record that I’m proud of. I’m proud of my record not because of any accomplishments I may have achieved or certainly because of an absence of mistakes but rather because I’ve tried to build that record based on living my life and fulfilling my responsibilities as honestly as I knew how and with hard work.
Underpinning everything I’ve done in my life was the belief that we must always be striving to make our nation a better and more secure place for all our people. During the 12 years I had the privilege of serving the people of Nebraska in the United States Senate, I cast over 3,000 votes and hundreds of committee votes. I’ve also given hundreds of interviews and speeches, and written a book. So as you all know, I’m on the record. I’m on the record on many issues.
But no one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me, my beliefs or my record. My overall worldview has never changed, that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world, that we must lead in the international community to confront threats and challenges together and take advantage of opportunities together, that we must use all our tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests. I believe and I always have believed that America must engage in the world, not retreat from the world but engage from (sic) the world.
My record is consistent on these points. It’s clear that we are living at a defining time. Our nation is emerging from over a decade of war. We have brought our men and women in uniform home from Iraq and have started to bring them home from Afghanistan. That does not mean that the threats we face and will continue to face are any less dangerous or complicated. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Recent events in Mali and Algeria remind us clearly of this reality: 21st century complexities, technologies, economies, threats are bringing the 7 billion global citizens closer together than ever before. And as our planet adds another 2 billion people over the next 25 years, the dangers, complications and human demands will not be lessened but rather heightened. Despite these challenges, I believe we also have historic opportunities to help build a safer, more prosperous, more secure, more hopeful and just world than maybe at any time in the history of man — for all people.
Yes, the curse of intolerance, hatred and danger exists around the world, and we must continue to be clear-eyed about this danger. And we will be. We will not hesitate to use the full force of the United States military in defense of our security.
But we must also be smart, and more importantly, wise — wise in how we employ all of our nation’s great power. America’s continued leadership and strength at home and abroad will be critically important for our country and the world. While we will not hesitate to act unilaterally when necessary, it is essential that we work closely with our allies and partners to enhance America’s interests and security, as well as global security. If confirmed, I will continue to build on the efforts of this administration and of former Secretaries Gates, Secretary Panetta and Secretary Clinton, to strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world. I will also look forward to working with my former Senate colleague, your colleague and our friend John Kerry in this pursuit.
As I told the president, I am committed to his positions on all issues of national security, specifically decisions that the Department of Defense is in the process of implementing now. This includes the Defense Strategic Guidance the president outlined in January 2012. Allow me to very briefly address a few of those specific issues now.
First, we have a plan to place — a plan in place to transition out of Afghanistan, continue bringing our troops home and end the war, which has been the longest war, as we all know, in America’s history. As you also know, discussions are ongoing about what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will look like after 2014. The president has made clear, and I agree, that there should be only two functions for U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014: counterterrorism, particularly to target al-Qaida and its affiliates, and training and advising Afghan forces. It’s time we forge a new partnership with Afghanistan, with its government, and most importantly, with its people.
Second, as secretary of defense, I will ensure we stay vigilant and keep up the pressure on terrorist — keep up the pressure on terrorist organizations as they try to expand their affiliates around the world in places like Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. At the Pentagon, that means continuing to invest in and build the tools to assist in that fight, such as special operations forces and new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies. And it will mean working hand in hand with our partners here at home across the national security and intelligence communities to confront these and other threats, especially the emerging threat, the very dangerous and real threat of cyber warfare.
Third, as I have made clear, I am fully committed to the president’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have been on record on that issue and as I said in the past many times, all options must be on the table to achieve that goal. My policy has always been the same as the president’s, one of prevention, not of containment. And the president has made clear that is the policy of our government. As secretary of defense, I will make sure the department is prepared for any contingency. That’s my job. That’s my responsibility. I will ensure our friend and ally Israel maintains its qualitative military edge in the region and will continue to support systems like Iron Dome, which is today saving Israeli lives from terrorist rocket attacks. That support, I have always made clear and been on the record for.
Fourth, while we pursue the reductions in our deployed stockpiles and launchers, consistent with the New START treaty, I am committed to maintaining a modern, strong, safe, ready and effective nuclear arsenal. America’s nuclear deterrent over the last 35 years has played a central role in ensuring global security and the avoidance of a World War III. I have been committed to that. My record is clear on that. I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal.
As we emerge from this decade of war, we must also broaden our nation’s focus overseas as we look at future threats and challenges. As this committee knows, that’s why DOD is rebalancing its resources toward the Asia-Pacific region. We are in the process of modernizing our defense posture across the entire region to defend and deepen our partnerships with traditional allies, especially Japan, South Korea and Australia, to continue to defer — and defend against provocation from states like North Korea as well as nonstate actors and to expand our networks of security cooperation throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy and ensure maritime security.
I will continue this rebalancing even as we continue to work closely with our longtime allies of NATO and our friends and with allies and partners and friends in other regions of the world. At the same time, we will continue to focus on challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, where we have clear national interests. Rather, it is a recognition that the United States has been and always will be a Pacific power, and the Asian-Pacific area is increasingly vital to America’s security and economic interests. That’s why we must become even more engaged in the region over the coming years.
Doing all this and much more will require smart and strategic budget decisions. I have made it clear I share Leon Panetta’s and our service chiefs’ serious concerns about the impact sequestration would have on our armed forces. And as someone who has run businesses, I know that the uncertainty and turbulence of the current budget climate makes it much more difficult to manage the Pentagon’s resources and our national security.
If confirmed, I’m committed to effectively and efficiently using every single taxpayers’ dollar the right way, to maintain the strongest military in the world and to working with Congress to ensure the department has the resources it needs and that the disposition of those resources is accountable.
Even as we deal with difficult budget decisions, I will never break America’s commitment to our troops, our veterans and our military families. We will continue to invest in the well-being of our all-volunteer force. And, working with the VA and other institutions, we will make sure our troops and their families get the health care, job opportunities and education they have earned and deserve, just as I did when I co-authored the Post-9/11 GI Bill with Senators Jim Webb, Frank Lautenberg and John Warner.
This includes focusing on the mental health of our fighting force because no one who volunteers to fight and die for this country should ever feel like that they have nowhere to turn. That’s unacceptable in this country.
In my 12 years in the Senate, my one guiding principle on every security decision I made and every vote I cast was always this, simply this: Is our policy worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices that we ask them to make? That same question will guide me if I am confirmed as secretary of defense. Our men and women in uniform and their families must never doubt that their leaders’ first priority is them. I believe my record of leadership on veterans’ issues over the years, going back to my service in the Veterans Administration under President Reagan, demonstrates my rock-solid commitment to our veterans and their families. We must always take care of our people.
That’s why I will work to ensure that everyone who volunteers to fight for this country has the same rights and same opportunities as I’ve discussed with many of you in our meetings. I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all, all our service members and their families. I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision I strongly support. And I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault, sexual assault in the military. Maintaining the health and well-being of those who serve is critical to maintaining a strong and capable military because in institutions, people must always come first.
As we look ahead to the coming years, we have an extraordinary opportunity now at this moment to define what’s next for America’s military and our country. It is incumbent upon all of us to make decisions that will ensure our nation is prepared to confront any threat we may face in the future, protect our citizens and remain the greatest force for good in the world.
If confirmed as secretary of defense, it will be my great honor working with the president, this committee, the Congress and our military to ensure our policies are worthy of the service and sacrifice of America’s men and women.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to your questions.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Hagel.
And here’s what the plan is now for the hearing. We’ll have a first round of eight minutes each. We have a vote that is scheduled for 12:15. We’re going to work through that vote, so — and we’re also going to work through lunch, which means that we would ask you to vote some time during that 12:15 vote and come back, for those of you who haven’t had your turn yet. There are five votes at 2:15. I hope that we can complete our first round by 2:00 or 2:15 so that we could then have a late lunch at 2:15 during those five votes. We would then come back perhaps an hour later. We would ask those who have not had a turn, if that’s the case or during our second round, that — to begin our second round, that you, on the final vote, vote early and then come back so we can start as quickly as possible around 3:15 or 3:30, I would assume, to either complete the first round if it hasn’t been completed or to begin our second round.
The — because of the time crunch, we have standard questions, which we ask of all nominees; I’m going to ask those at a later time during this hearing, but we will ask them. And again, I think that — we hope to finish today. We will leave the record open for questions, but our goal would be to finish today, no matter how long it takes today, than to have the record open for questions.
So let us now begin our first round of eight minutes. Senator Hagel, you’ve made reference to the looming sequester. We received a letter signed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff relative to sequester, which says that we’re on the brink of creative a hollow force due to an unprecedented convergence of budget conditions and legislation.
They have talked about the readiness crisis which would result, grounding aircraft, returning ships to port, stop driving combat vehicles in training and so forth.
Can you — and you’ve spoken very briefly about your agreeing with — in general with the impact. Would you expand on the impact of that sequester from your perspective?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think the chiefs have laid it out rather directly, plainly, as Secretary Panetta has. As recently as two or three days ago, the deputy secretary of defense, Ash Carter, in an interview went into some detail. The fact is — the bottom line is if sequester would occur, it isn’t just a reduction in a significant amount of dollars that would occur, but it would be a convergence of taking the flexibility, the projection, the management, the future away from those who were responsible for managing our budget. Furloughs — furloughing civilian employees would have to occur. You listed an inventory of consequences, of cutting back on flying time, of training, of steaming. These are real consequences that would occur.
I know the Pentagon, the chiefs, those who have responsibility, who are managing every department of this 3 million operation — security institution are preparing for the worst. But make no mistake; this is not an exaggeration. And when managers are not given the flexibility and the opportunity and the tools to manage with complete uncertainty as to what’s ahead, that’s disaster.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. On the question of Iran and the use of force, the president has said that Iran’s leaders should understand that President Obama does not have a policy of containment; he has a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that he has made clear that he will not hesitate, in his words, to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.
Do you agree with President Obama’s position that, quote, “all options should be on the table,” close quote, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?
Mr. HAGEL: I do, I have, and I strongly agree with it.
Sen. LEVIN: On Iranian sanctions, President Obama has said that the sanctions which have been put in place are crippling the economy of Iran. I happen to agree. Their currency’s dropped 80 percent, oil production’s plunged, economy’s in a shambles.
Do you share the president’s views on the importance and effectiveness of sanctions against Iran, and if so, how do you reconcile your position with some of your past statements that suggest that the national security of the United States is not served by isolating Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, I do agree with and always have agreed with multilateral sanctions, because I think they have an effect, and I think this president in particular has probably done more than any president to effectively employ those kind of international sanctions, starting with a Security Council U.N. agreement and U.N. mandates. So I agree with what the president is doing. And I’ve said publicly, incidentally long before the president had ever asked me to consider this job, that additional sanctions might be required.
As to my record on votes in the Senate regarding unilateral sanctions, I have differed on some of those. I have voted for some as well. It was always on a case-by-case basis. When I voted against some of those unilateral sanctions on Iran, it was a different time. For example, I believe one was in 2001, 2002. We were at a different place with Iran during that time. Matter of fact, I recall the Bush administration did not want a renewal of the — five-year renewal of ILSA during that time, because they weren’t sure of the effectiveness of sanctions. That wasn’t the only reason I voted against it.
It was because I thought that there might be other ways to employ our vast ability to harness power and allies. It was never a question of did I disagree with the objective. The objective was, I think, very clear to both of us. I recall, for example, in 2008, Secretary of State Rice sending a letter to the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, requesting that a sanctions resolution, unilateral in the Finance Committee, not come out of the Finance Committee because the Bush administration at the time was working with the Russians specifically but with the Security Council of the United Nations to try to get international sanctions, which I think that effort, by the way, in 2008 led to the 2010 international sanctions.
Sen. LEVIN: Can you give us your view on the size of the U.S. force which might be necessary or would be necessary after 2014, the so-called residual force, if you have an opinion on the size? You’ve indicated in your opening statement two missions for that residual force. Can you also give us your opinion about the size of the Afghan national security force after 2014, and whether you agree with me and Senator Graham on this committee and others that we ought to reconsider the position that the Afghan national security force should be reduced by a third starting in 2014 to about 230,000, from what its current goal is, which is about 350,000?
Mr. HAGEL: As you all know, General Allen has presented his options to the president for the president’s consideration. As far as I know, as of this morning the president had not — not made a decision on what a residual force, numbers-wise, would look like. I have not been included in those discussions, so I don’t know, other than knowing that he’s got a range of options, as you do. But I would say that, from what the president has told me, what Secretary Panetta has told me, that that decision will be made to assure resourcing the mission and the capability of that mission.
As to what kind of a force structure should eventually be in place by the Afghans, I don’t know enough about the specifics to give you a good answer, other than to say that I think that has to be a decision that is made, certainly, with the president of Afghanistan. What we can do to continue to support and train and protect our interests within the scope of our ability to do that, obviously the immunity for our troops is an issue, which was an issue in Iraq. All those considerations will be important and will be made. If I am confirmed and in a position to give the president advice on that, I will, with consultation of our commanders on the ground and our chiefs, give him the best options that we can provide.
Sen. LEVIN: Will you review that question of the size of the Afghan force with an open mind if you’re confirmed?
Mr. HAGEL: I will, because I think we have to.
Sen. LEVIN: thank you.
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, my first question’s not to be responded as to explaining the position, but I want to state the position or restate the position on five things that I mentioned in my opening statement, merely to ask you if these are accurate reflections of things that happened in the past.
The first one is, in 2007 you voted against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The second thing, in 2006, you were one of 12 senators who refused to petition the EU to identify Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The third, in November of ’03, you failed to vote on a Syrian — Syria accountability act authorizing sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and occupation of Lebanon. Four, in 2001 you were one of only two senators that year to vote against renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. And lastly, in 2001, you were one of four senators who refused to sign the letter supporting Israel. Are those accurate?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, let’s start with —
Sen. INHOFE: Well, no, I just want to know if the statement — these are votes that took place. Do you agree that those votes took place?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I want to ask the letter that you just noted under your fifth point, what was the date in the letter?
Sen. INHOFE: The date?
Mr. HAGEL: You said I refused to sign a letter.
Sen. INHOFE: It was October of 2001.
Mr. HAGEL: A letter to —
Sen. INHOFE: OK, skip that one. Are the other ones true? (Laughter.)
Mr. HAGEL: Well, it is fairly important, as you know — (inaudible).
Sen. INHOFE: Well, it is very important. I was holding the letter at the time that we were gathering signatures.
Mr. HAGEL: I see.
On the 2008 question regarding designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, I did vote against it and —
Sen. INHOFE: No, OK, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be rude. You and I are very good friends, but I know that my time is going to expire. Others are going to ask as to why you did this. I was asking for the accuracy. And if you don’t want to answer that, that’s fine, because —
Mr. HAGEL: No, I just said I did vote against it, and I was going to explain why I voted —
Sen. INHOFE: Yeah, I know, and they’ll be asking you for your explanation.
I want to get to three other things, and that’s why it’s critical that we kind of keep moving along here. One of the criticisms I’ve had of this administration is the lack of priority in funding for the military. Now, while they’ve increased the deficit by $5.3 trillion in four years, the only major part of the budget (hasn’t ?) decreased has been the military. Now, that’s something that is pretty well- known. A lot of people don’t like that idea.
The thing that bothers me just as much is putting the agenda, another agenda under the — under the military budget. For example, you have heard Senator McCain and me and others talk about the fact that the Navy paid for 450,000 gallons of fuel, some $26 a gallon. You can get it on the market for $3. The Air Force, the same thing except it’s $59 a gallon. And so the question I would have of you is just a commitment, that if you are confirmed, will you confine the dollars that we are going to spend in the defense budget for defense purposes, for war fighting purposes?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, of course I will, because that’s the intent of our budget in the Department of Defense.
Sen. INHOFE: Good. I appreciate that very much.
There was an article the other day in the Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin called “Our Dim-witted State Department.” It is kind of an interesting article, and there are four questions that I’m going to ask that you respond for the record. For people who don’t know what that is, it means later on in writing.
The questions that I’d — that I liked that she asked were, did the sale of the F-16s encourage Morsi to crack down on his people? Number two: Had we known he would crack down, would we still have sent the weaponry? Number three: How will we respond to Morsi’s anti-democratic moves and the rise in violence against Christians in Egypt? Four: As will likely be the case, a failure to live up to Egypt’s security obligations regarding Gaza. And four (sic): Have we miscalculated the Muslim Brotherhood? That would be for the record.
In the area of the Global Zero policy, you and I talked about that in my office. Others have talked about it. We’re very much concerned. When I heard the — Senator Warner and others talk about the — what used to be the case, the problem in terms of nuclear capability, we used to be talking about Russia and the United States. It’s not true anymore. Our intelligence has told us since 2007 that Iran will have that nuclear capability and a delivery system by 2015, so it’s other countries that are involved in that.
The question I would ask you in the — in your book you wrote that we must once again convince the world that America has a clear intention of fulfilling the nuclear disarmament committee — commitments that we’ve made. The question — and then a bit more recently you said, I believe that providing necessary resources for nuclear modernization of the triad should be a national priority. Do you stand by your last statement?
Mr. HAGEL: My last statement was —
Sen. INHOFE: Your last statement saying that should — I believe that providing the necessary resources for nuclear modernization of the triad should be a national priority.
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely it should be, and I agree with that. And that’s what the policy of this administration is.
Sen. INHOFE: Well, I’m really bringing out the inconsistency, because when you were involved with supporting the Global Zero or whatever that group — the organization was, their declaration is, quote, “we, the undersigned, believe that to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilization from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally.
We therefore commit to working for a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain.”
Mr. HAGEL: The position of Global Zero, my position, some of the individuals — national security leaders who Senator Nunn talked about, including himself, has never been unilateral disarmament, ever, never. We have over the years, which I have supported — the United States has led in reducing — the efforts to reducing nuclear warheads. There was no more significant voice for that than Ronald Reagan when he laid before Secretary-General Gorbachev in 1986 a rather bold plan. In fact, I believe — I’m paraphrasing President Reagan — we must eliminate nuclear warheads form the face of the Earth. I believe he said something to that effect.
Global Zero has been very clear on this. Their effort is in line with every major national leader in the world, including President Obama, to continue to try to make an effort to reduce our nuclear warheads. But in a dangerous world, nuclear arsenals and our containment policy, which I mentioned in my statement, has been critically important. We’re not going to unilaterally disarm. Verifiable; it has to be bilateral; it has to be negotiated, as all our treaties have been.
Sen. INHOFE: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Senator Hagel, but that’s — the reason I mention the mission statement is, if that’s the group you belong to, we can talk about that later, you may want to expand on that for the record.
My time has expired, but I have one last question I’d like to ask. And that is, given that Iran, the people — and I’m quoting right now from Iran — people of the Middle East, the Muslim region and the — North Africa, people of these regions hate America from the bottom of their heart. It further said, Israel is a cancerous tumor in the heart of Islamic world. It further said, Iran’s warriors are ready and willing to wipe Israel off the map. The question I’d like to ask you, and you can answer it for the record if you’d like, is why do you think that the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the secretary of defense?
Mr. HAGEL: I have a difficult enough time with American politics. (Laughter.) Senator, I have no idea, but — thank you. And I’ll be glad to respond further for the record.
Sen. INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Inhofe. Senator Reed.
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First, I would ask unanimous consent that several letters of support, including one from 13 former secretaries of defense, secretaries of state and national security advisers, strongly endorsing Senator Hagel’s nomination be placed in the record.
Sen. LEVIN: It will be placed in the record.
Sen. REED: Mr. Chairman, I think the president chose wisely. There are every few people in this country with the experience, as a combat infantryman, decorated and wounded, as a business leader, as the second leaders of the Veterans Administration, as a United States senator, as someone who every day understands that the decisions we make will be carried out by young Americans, who’s actually looked in the face of young Americans, who’s seen them suffer and die for this country, and I think that quality is, if not unique, extraordinarily part of the nominee before us. So again, I think the president made a wise choice.
I think Senator Inhofe’s discussion of the zero growth (sic) is an opportunity for a quote, and let me quote, there is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this is why we are trying to do a negotiation with the Soviet Union. We are not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek instead to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. President Ronald Reagan in his second inaugural address. So the notion of Global Zero is not something unique.
I’d also point out that, as signatories to the nuclear disarmament treaty, the national — Non-Proliferation Treaty, Article 11 undertakes to commit, at least, to a treaty, ultimately, on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective control. So this is an aspiration that the United States has embraced for a very long time under presidents of both parties.
And I think, as Senator Hagel pointed out, this is not unilateral disarmament; this is a long process of making sure we have the nuclear weapons in place to deal with appropriate challenges, some of them very different than the Cold War, but the aspiration is important and has been a bipartisan and constant for decades. It — is that a rough summary of what you might agree to, Senator?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, it is, Senator. Thank you.
Sen. REED: The other issue is that there were several specific points raised with your record. And let me give you the opportunity to respond, if you will, to the questions that Senator Inhofe posed with respect to some votes, the — if you have the list before you or —
Mr. HAGEL: The what? I’m sorry?
Sen. REED: Senator Inhofe posed several issues about a 2007 vote, a 2006 resolution with the Hezbollah or 2003 Syrian sanctions, et cetera. You were prepared to comment. I think it’s appropriate that you have an opportunity to comment. If you’d want to do so now, I’d invite you do so.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, and I’d be glad to further comment for the record because I have none of those specific votes in front of me in which I — well, Senator, listing every vote I took.
I would say, though, included in those votes, which I do recall some of them, were a vote in 1998, a vote in 2000, a vote in 2006, specifically against Iran, sanctioning companies, unilateral sanctions, that in any way assisted in Iran’s building their capability of nuclear weapons or rocket or missiles. I voted for those. I recall signing a letter — a Warner-Levin letter in 2002 to the president of the United States regarding anti-Semitism in Russia. I wrote a letter to President Clinton specifically in 1999 recommending to President Clinton a number of steps that he take with President Yeltsin regarding anti-Semitism in Russia. I remember the — specifically, there were two unanimous consent resolutions in 2006 against Hezbollah, against Hamas, against Syria and Iran that we had unanimous consent, I supported on the floor of the Senate.
So there’s a more complete record, Senator, than just one or two or three or four, and those are some of them that I recall. As I noted in one of the responses back to Senator Inhofe, I didn’t take any action on any vote, as I suspect every colleague here has the same way to approach votes, on this specific issue, on Hezbollah, Hamas, which I’m on the record many times designating and saying that Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. I’m the record many times in speeches and on the floor of the Senate, in a book I wrote in 2008, saying that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. That is not new. That’s in my record.
But the way I approached every vote I ever took in the Senate was based on what I thought could be most effective, what was — at the time, what was the situation at the time, how could we do this smarter and better. I have always believed that the president of the United States is the elected leader of America. He has within his responsibilities — and I believe it’s clearly articulated in Article II — to conduct foreign policy. I always thought the best way to deal with foreign leaders was let the president do that directly, for us to communicate with the president. I don’t think there was a letter that I can recall that I signed to a president on any of these issues that I agreed with it that I didn’t sign.
So it was never a matter of differing objectives here; it was a matter of how best we could do it. I mentioned in 2008 the secretary of state didn’t want one of those unilateral sanctions to go forward, during the Bush administration, wrote a letter, 2001, which was one of the issues that Senator Inhofe brought up. The Bush administration was opposed to a five-year renewal bill. Now, I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but every one of the decisions I made, every vote I cast was based on, at the time, what I thought made the most sense.
Sen. REED: Senator, you have clearly stated that you are supportive of the president’s efforts to support the state of Israel.
And you have indicated, in specifically the example of Iron Dome — I recall a statement recently by Defense Minister Barak that he has seldom seen or never has seen the same level of military support to the state of Israel that he’s seen in the last several years. And you are, I presume and I hope, fully prepared to carry out that same effort, that same level of support because of the vital interest that we share with the state of Israel.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I am, and I — and I — and I have a record on that. In my book in 2008, interviews, speeches, I’ve always said I am a supporter of Israel. In some cases, I have said I’m a strong supporter of Israel. In some cases I’ve even written — and I think it’s in my book — that we have a special relationship with Israel. We always have had. So I’ve never voted in — against Israel ever in the 12 years I was in the Senate, whether it was military authorizations, additional supplemental appropriations. The record is very clear on that.
I might add, as well as we’re — as long as we’re on this subject, that — and Senator Nelson may have a clearer view of this, since he was just in Jerusalem — there have been a couple of recent statements made by the current Israeli ambassador to the United States, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States and now the deputy foreign minister of Israel that were fairly positive about me.
So I think all the Israeli leaders I have dealt with over the years and met with — and I’ve been to Israel many times. First time I was — first two times I was in Israel was when I was the head of the USO. I kept the Haifa USO open. We didn’t close it. There was a lot of pressure when I took over the world USO to close USOs around the world, and we did. There was a lot of pressure to close the Haifa USO. I’m the one that made the decision not to do that. The former chief of naval operations of Israel, Admiral Ze’ev Almog, who has recently been interviewed about me, has strongly supported me and said specifically that I was a strong friend of Israel. The current — or now the USO’s closed, but the current then-director of the USO, a lady by the name of Gilla Gerzon, who lives in Haifa, said I was a strong supporter and friend of Israel. So I think my record’s pretty clear on my support of Israel.
And I would of course continue to support the president’s policies. And I think he’s been as strong a supporter of Israel as maybe any president since 1948, when Harry Truman helped give birth to Israel. This president has been there. As he said, I have Israel’s back; 3.1 billion (dollars) in assistance, almost 300 additional million dollars out of the Defense Department for Iron Dome, what we’re doing on David’s Sling, Arrow. I’m a strong supporter of all of those programs and will continue to support them.
Sen. REED: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. Before I call on Senator McCain, there’s a quorum that’s now present, and I now ask the committee to consider a list of 952 pending military nominations. They’ve all been before the committee the required length of time. Is there a motion to favorably report those nominations?
Sen. : (Off mike.)
Sen. LEVIN: Is there a second?
Sen. : Second.
Sen. LEVIN: All in favor say aye.
Sen. LEVIN: Opposed, nay. The motion carries. Thank you all very much.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’m pleased to see an old friend here before the committee and especially pleased to see Senator Warner and Senator Nunn, two of the great members of this committee who have contributed so much to our nation’s defense.
Senator Hagel, this — members of this committee will raise questions reflecting concerns with your policy positions. They’re not reasonable people disagreeing; they’re fundamental disagreements. Our concerns pertain to the quality of your professional judgment and the — your worldview on critical areas of national security, including security in the Middle East.
With that in mind, let me begin with your opposition to the surge in Iraq. 2006, we lost — Republicans lost the election, and we began the surge. And you wrote a piece in The Washington Post, quote, “Leaving Iraq Honorably.” 2007, you committed — you said it’s not in the national interest to deepen its military involvement. In January of 2007, in a rather bizarre exchange with Secretary Rice in the Foreign Relations Committee, after some nonsense about Syria and crossing the border into Iran and Syria because of the surge, then — and a — and a reference to Cambodia in 1970, you said, quote, “When you set in motion the kind of policy the president’s talking about here, it’s very, very dangerous.”
Quote, “matter of fact, I have to say, Madam Secretary, I think the speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam. If it’s carried out, I will resist it.”
And then of course you continued on and on for months afterwards talking about what a disaster the surge would be, even to the point where it was clear the surge was succeeding. In March 2008 you said, quote, “Here the term ‘quagmire’ could apply. Some reject that term, but if that’s not a quagmire, then what is?”
Even as late as August 29th, 2011, in an interview — 2011 — you’d — in an interview with the Financial Times, you said, I disagreed with the president — Obama — his decision to surge in Iraq, as I did with President Bush on the surge in Iraq.
Do you — do you stand by that — those comments, Senator Hagel?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, I stand by them because I made them. And —
Sen. MCCAIN: You stand by — were you right?
Mr. HAGEL: Well —
Sen. MCCAIN: Were you correct in your assessment?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out, but I’ll —
Sen. MCCAIN: I think — we — committee deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge.
Mr. HAGEL: I’ll explain why I made those comments, and I believe I had, but —
Sen. MCCAIN: I want to know if you were right or wrong. That’s a direct question. I expect a direct answer.
Mr. HAGEL: The surge assisted in the objective. But if we review the record a little bit —
Sen. MCCAIN: Will you please answer the question? Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect?
Mr. HAGEL: My —
Sen. MCCAIN: Yes or no?
Mr. HAGEL: My reference to the surge being both dangerous —
Sen. MCCAIN: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel? The question is, were you right or wrong? That’s a pretty straightforward question.
Mr. HAGEL: Well —
Sen. MCCAIN: I will — I would like to answer whether you were right or wrong, and then you are free to elaborate.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I’m not going to give you a yes or no answer on a lot of things today.
Sen. MCCAIN: Well, let the record show that you refused to answer that question.
Now please go ahead.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, if you would like me to explain why —
Sen. MCCAIN: Oh, I actually would like an answer. Yes or no.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I’m not going to give you a yes or no.
Sen. MCCAIN: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: I think it’s far more complicated than that. As I’ve already said, my answer is I’ll defer that judgment to history.
As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy decision since Vietnam — was about not just the surge but the overall war of choice going into Iraq. That particular decision that was made on the surge, but more to the point, our war in Iraq, I think was the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam. Aside from the costs that occurred in this country to blood and treasure, aside what that did to take our focus off of Afghanistan, which in fact was the original and real focus of a national threat to this country — Iraq was not — I always tried to frame all the different issues before I made a decision on anything.
Now just as you said, Senator, we can have differences of opinion.
Sen. MCCAIN: But —
Mr. HAGEL: That’s essentially why I took the position I did.
Sen. MCCAIN: It’s fundamental difference of opinion, Senator Hagel. And Senator Graham and I and Senator Lieberman, when there were 59 votes in the United States Senate, spent our time trying to prevent that 60th. Thank God for Senator Lieberman.
I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it. And your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong about is going to have an impact on my judgment as to whether vote for your confirmation or not. I hope you will reconsider the fact that you refused to answer a fundamental question about an issue that took the lives of thousands of young Americans.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, there was more to it than just flooding a zone —
Sen. MCCAIN: I’m asking about the surge, Senator Hagel.
Mr. HAGEL: I know you are, and I’m trying to explain my position. The beginning of the surge also factored in what General Allen had put into place in Anbar province, the Sunni Awakening.
We put over, as you know, a hundred thousand young — (inaudible).
Sen. MCCAIN: Senator Hagel, I’m very aware of the history of the surge and the Anbar Awakening, and I also am aware that any casual observer will know that the surge was the fundamental factor, led by two great leaders, General Petraeus and Ambassador — (inaudible).
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I don’t know if that would have been required and cost us over a thousand American lives and thousands of (wounded ?).
Sen. MCCAIN: So you don’t know if the surge would have been required? OK.
Senator Hagel, let me go back — go to Syria now. More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria. Do you believe that we should be more engaged in Syria?
Mr. HAGEL: I know this administration is very engaged in working with its partners.
Sen. MCCAIN: So you don’t think we should do more?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, when you say do more, do you mean —
Sen. MCCAIN: Do you think we should put — make sure that the Syrians get the weapons they need, and perhaps, establish a no-fly zone? Do you think we do?
Mr. HAGEL: I believe that part of our review is looking at those options.
Sen. MCCAIN: It’s been 22 months, Senator Hagel.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I wasn’t there. I don’t know the details. I’m not there now.
Sen. MCCAIN: I’m sure you’ve read in the newspapers that 60,000 people have been killed and that it’s in danger of spilling over into neighboring countries. My question, I guess, is, how many more would have to die before you would support a — arming the resistance and establishing a new fly zone — no-fly zone?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I don’t think anyone questions the terrible tragedy that is occurring there every day. It’s a matter of how best do we work our way through this so that we can stop it, does — to begin with. And then what comes next? I think the president was pretty clear on this.
Sen. MCCAIN: Did you disagree with — did you disagree with President Obama on his decision for the surge in Afghanistan?
Mr. HAGEL: I didn’t think that we should get ourselves into — first of all, I had no original position as far as no formal position, but I didn’t think we were —
Sen. MCCAIN: But you were — you were quoted in August 29, 2011, saying, I disagreed with President Obama and his decision to surge in Afghanistan.
Mr. HAGEL: That was my personal opinion, yes.
Sen. MCCAIN: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HAGEL (?): Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.
SENATOR WILLIAM NELSON (D-FL): Since the issue of Iraq has come up here, I just want to state for the record and lay the predicate that this senator was one of many that voted for the authorization to go into Iraq, and as it turns out, the lessons of history, we were given incorrect information as a justification for going into Iraq. We were told by the secretary of defense, by the secretary of state, by the national security adviser and the director of the CIA that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And so for a lot of the decisions that were made at the outset, they were decisions that were informed with incorrect information. So as the committee is judging Senator Hagel on that decision as well as others, I want to tell the committee what was the experience of this senator.
Now, what I would like to do with my time here is that since there are a few of us in this room that served in the military during the Vietnam era — and you clearly had that experience in combat, Senator Hagel, I would — and by the way, a lot of people don’t know anything about Vietnam and don’t know how difficult it was, as Senator Warner has so eloquently stated in his comments, how the nation was divided. But I would like for you, as the committee is getting to know you, know something about your service in Vietnam and your combat experience. Were you wounded, Senator Hagel?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator Nelson, thank you. If I — if I may, and if I read into your question some latitude in answering, I would respond this way.
I think my time is better served to maybe talk about more of the specific things like Senator McCain asked me about, and some others, and maybe weave in some of my experience as to how it formed my judgment rather than going through a 12-month journal of my time in the jungles, when my brother Tom and I were both wounded twice together.
1968, when Tom and I served there, was the worst year we had. Those who may not recall that year — we sent over 16,000 dead Americans home. Now, that’s unfathomable in the world that we live in today, 16,000 dead Americans. I saw that from the bottom. I think Chairman Levin, in an accurate and appropriate quote about what I said in his introductory statements, about what formed me — and it directly goes to Senator McCain’s question about the surge.
Just as I said in my statement, I had one fundamental question that I asked myself on every vote I took, every decision I made: Was the policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle and, surely, to their deaths and, in many cases, unfortunately, tens of thousands of cases that we’re living with, these poor families are living with, wounded, the results, the consequences? I know it’s easy here — it is anywhere — if you don’t have a connection to some of this, to see these things a little differently. It doesn’t mean I’m any better, Senator. It doesn’t mean I’m any smarter, doesn’t mean I am any more appreciative of the service to our country. That’s not it. I saw it from the bottom. I see what — I saw what happens. I saw the consequences and the suffering and the horror of war.
So I did question a surge. It wasn’t an aberration to me, ever. I always ask the question, is this going to be worth the sacrifice, because there will be sacrifice. In the surge case in Iraq, we lost almost 1,200 dead Americans during that surge, and thousands of wounded. Now, was it required? Was it necessary? Senator McCain has his own opinion on that, shared by others. I’m not sure. I’m not that certain that it was required. Now, it doesn’t mean I’m right, doesn’t mean I didn’t make wrong votes. But that’s what guides me.
When you ask me the question about my time in Vietnam and was I wounded, well, I was a very insignificant part of this. We were just doing our job, Senator, as every military person knows that. Some of this committee has rather distinguished members who served, starting with Senator McCain and the sacrifices he’s made to this country. But it does condition you.
I’m not shaped, framed, molded, consumed by that experience. Of course not. But it’s part of me. I tried to explain that in my opening statement. We’re all shaped by those experiences. I hope that experience that I’ve had is for the better. I hope that if I have the privilege of serving as secretary of defense, it will put someone in charge at the Pentagon — not questioning past secretaries of defense; I can only speak for myself — who understands the realities of consequences of war. Doesn’t mean I’m better, but that’s who I am. I don’t walk away from that. I acknowledge that. But it doesn’t consume me, Senator.
I don’t see the lens of every world event and whether we should use American power through the lens of Vietnam. But it’s part of me. It is part of that lens. I think that’s for the better. I think we need to be cautious with our power. I think we need to be wise with our power. We have great power. We have awesome power. No nation in the world is even in our league. We have done so much good with that power.
I don’t think there’s a nation in the history of man who is — who’s ever been as judicious and careful with its power as we have. And I want to make sure we continue to do that, as you all do.
We’ll have differences, senator, on policies, but all I can do my best based on my own experiences and, as I also said in my statement, reaching out, listening, learning, never knowing enough, understand circumstances change.
Sen. NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Nelson. Senator Sessions.
SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you. Senator Hagel, it’s great to have you with us and to have this hearing an opportunity to discuss important issues. I admire your service to your country, and your combat experience is something we all honor and respect.
I’ve been for the most part chairman, ranking member or member of the strategic subcommittee of this Senate, on Armed Service Committee for the time I’ve been in the Senate and we came together. And so I’ve had some experience and knowledge about the great debates involving nuclear weapons and national security.
I believe the secretary of defense should be the core, the rock- solid person for defense of America. I believe he should project an image of solidity and steadfastness that the whole world and American people can depend on. And I’m a little — more than a little troubled by the report that you participated in, Global Zero report, that calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and clearly suggests that’s an achievable goal in a realistic period of time, although certainly not immediately.
And your report writers defend you. They’ve issued an article defending you and the report that was just issued last year, and they protest mightily and say that, quote, Chuck Hagel and Global Zero’s views on nuclear weapons are in the national security interest and squarely in the mainstream. Indeed, your defenders insist you’re in the mainstream because your position is that of President Obama’s. And dramatically, they assert you are out of the mainstream if you believe otherwise.
So your report explicitly calls for, quote, “an urgent and transformational change in U.S. nuclear force structure, strategy and posture,” close quote. I think it’s a — rather is exceedingly dramatic a report, frankly.
Now, specifically as to the historic nuclear force triad that’s been the bedrock of our defense policy for half a century, your report calls for bilaterally or unilaterally totally eliminating the ICBM triad leg. In fact, the report refers to itself as a dyad instead of a triad report. And you propose eliminating the 76 nuclear B-52 bombers entirely, leading — leaving only 18 B-2 bombers, reducing nuclear submarines from 14 to 10.
Further, the committee report that you spawned — you — one of the five members that produced it, you favor eliminating all tactical nuclear weapons, dealerting all weapons and, according to the report, as I read it, that would mean it would take from one to three days to place a weapon on alert. And so I certainly agree that that would be a transformational change in our nuclear force structure, strategy and posture. And I think it’s a big historic thing.
Now, General Kehler, the present commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, and the secretary of Air Force, Mike Donley, did not agree with the recommendations in this report, people you’ll supervise. General Kehler told the press on August 8th last year, I do not support the former vice chairman — that’s General Cartwright — I do not think that we’re in a place he suggests now, nor do I see that particular place anytime soon. So you’ll be supervising him. Would you share with us where you are today on that issue? Do you support the view of General Kehler or you support of the commission report that you signed?
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Senator. Well, let me first correct some of your interpretation of what the Global Zero report was and is and what it — what it actually said. First, it didn’t propose or call for anything. It was — in fact, the word specifically used at the front end of that report was “illustrative,” proposing nothing but laying out different scenarios and possibilities and schedules.
But here’s the key part of all this — and by the way, this was summarized in a letter to President Obama in 2009 — bilateral, never unilateral — nothing was ever suggested on a unilateral basis to take down our arsenal — negotiated, verifiable. These are all terms that were in the report.
As Senator Nunn said in his opening statement — and I have alluded generally to this — the mainstream thinking of most presidents we’ve had the last 65 years — and I go back to Ronald Reagan’s comments, as Senator Nunn quoted — was reduction of nuclear weapons for the obvious reasons. That’s why we have engaged in treaties to reduce nuclear weapons. Those weren’t unilateral arrangements; those were bilateral arrangements. The U.S. and the Russians, as you know, have about 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in this — in the world today. Now, there are others who have them. There are nine nuclear powers, dangerous. Obviously the so-called loose nukes or nonstate actors, terrorist groups getting a hold of these are threats, but —
Sen. SESSIONS: But Senator Hagel, I hate to interrupt you, but —
Mr. HAGEL: I just want to make sure that’s clear.
Sen. SESSIONS: I know, but it’s not clear in your report. The report says, quote, on page 1, “These steps could be taken with Russia in unison through reciprocal presidential directives negotiated in another round of bilateral arms reductions or in — implemented unilaterally.” A little further on it says that —
Mr. HAGEL: Well, that’s not proposing, Senator.
Sen. SESSIONS: — two more times in this report that these ideas could be — a less good approach would be to adopt this agenda unilaterally. It suggests that it should be adopted — that wouldn’t be as good, but you would so — you would do so. And there’s another reference to that.
And it does call for these reductions. In your conclusion, you say the United States should seek to achieve such reductions in 10 years and plan to base its arsenal on a dyad of nuclear delivery vehicles. You go on to say Trident missile submarines would — the optimal mix would consist of 10 Trident submarines and 18 B-2 bombers. The normal conditions we want to have for the warhead stockpile would be deployed on these carriers. The other half would be kept in reserve. All land-based intercontinental missiles armed with nuclear payloads would be retired, along with carriers of nonstrategic nuclear warheads. That’s — all of which would be eliminated. That’s the tactical nuclear weapons, all of which would be eliminated from the stockpile. B-52 bombers would be completely dismantled or converted to carry-only conventional weapons.
I don’t believe that’s consistent with the policy of the country as a whole. We got — I supported legislation to create a bipartisan commission several years ago to help us — Senator Levin and others supported that; the House supported it, and it passed — to help us determine how much further we can continue to draw down our nuclear weapons. It was chaired by William Perry, the secretary of defense on the Carter, James Schlesinger served in the Carter and Nixon Cabinets. It had John Glenn on it, Morton Halperin, Lee Hamilton, James Woolsey. They had Keith Payne and others. They had access to Defense Department secret documents and information, and they came out with quite a different view.
Let me just point out some of the things that they came up with. They said, maintain the triad. They said, maintain tactical nuclear weapons. They recommended no change in the alert status. And in fact, the Defense Department’s Nuclear Posture Review under President Obama and Secretary Gates explicitly found the alert status should not be altered in their review of nuclear weapons, and they fundamentally found a need for nuclear weapons.
That’s the point. And your commission basically said there’s — undermines the request for nuclear weapons. And I’ll just — I’ll give you a chance to respond.
On Global Zero, they sort of, I think, foresaw this argument. Before your report was issued, they said this, quote: “The conditions that might make possible the global elimination of nuclear weapons are not present today, and their creation would require a fundamental transformation of the world political order,” close quote. And that is a very strong statement. And I think it was aimed at this idea that it’s practical and realistic for us to expect that the world is going to move to zero nuclear weapons.
All right, so first I want to ask you one question that you told me in our meeting that I appreciated. You — President Obama stated, when we did the New START treaty discussion and vote and debate, quote, “I intend to modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear systems, a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile and ICBM and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine,” close quote. And he committed to, quote, “accelerate the design of the CMRR and the UPF” — those are the two buildings that — where our modernizations would take place — “and request full funding for those projects.” So first let me ask you, would you support that vision and commitment the president made?
Mr. HAGEL: Well absolutely, I do. And —
Sen. SESSIONS: And then you’re free to respond to what I was saying. But I really do feel that — I’m uneasy about this vision expressed in that committee report of yours.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, let me just briefly come back to what you said, Senator. And I appreciate you giving me a chance to respond.
First, my record has always been very clear, everything I’ve voted on in my career in the Senate and where I’ve been. A strong, agile, safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal for the United States is not debatable. I’ve voted that way. I believe that.
You know that the home of the Strategic Command is now in Senator Fischer’s state, which used to be in the state I represented, or I used to be in that state as a senator. It hasn’t changed. I know a little something about it, not as much as you and others on the committee, but I’ve been to that facility many times. I know General Kehler very well. I’ve known all the STRATCOM commanders very well.
And you know what the motto of STRATCOM is. It’s a pretty significant motto: “Peace is our business.” And what has kept the peace, as I noted in my opening statement, as much as anything else since World War II, is that strong nuclear deterrent. This prospective secretary of defense would never do anything or in any way take any action that would minimize or harm or downgrade that reality.
But again, I go back to — not to get caught up in this report — this report was about illustrative possibilities, what could things — how could things be done, always, always bilateral, always verifiable, always negotiable, just as we’ve always done in all our treaties.
So I’ll stop there. That’s the commitment I make to you. I made it to the president. My record’s clear on that.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. I think we have to move on.
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, just thank you, and I would just say the vision stated in your “Global Zero” report, I believe, is likely to create instability rather than confidence and stability, create uncertainty in the world among our allies and our potential adversaries. And I do not believe it would meet the goal that you said not to weaken our ability.
So I’m troubled that — I feel — I appreciate your comments today, but I am troubled by the language in that report.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Sessions.
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the six years I’ve served on this committee, I have served under Senator Warner as a ranking Republican member and Senator McCain as a ranking Republican member. And I’ve got to tell you that there has never been a time that I didn’t sense that we all agreed that our work on behalf of our nation in terms of protecting our country and defending our country — that it was a bipartisan effort. I believe very strongly that this committee needs to be bipartisan. And I hope that the new ranking member holds the same regard for that as Senator McCain and Senator Warner did, because at all times I felt that they were respectful and were willing to listen to our disagreements. And I’m hopeful that that will continue, and I will be optimistic that it will.
I’m going to ask a series of questions, and then at the end of them, if you need more time, just say so. Do you believe that all options should be on the table when we confront Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely.
Sen. MCCASKILL; Do you believe Iran is currently a state sponsor of terrorism and provides material support to Hezbollah and to Hamas?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. And I’m on the record a number of times saying that.
Sen. MCCASKILL: Do you believe — do you support sanctions against Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. MCCASKILL: Do you believe that the United States should unilaterally eliminate its nuclear arsenal?
Mr. HAGEL: No.
Sen. MCCASKILL: Do you agree with four national security leaders, including Mr. Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry and George Shultz — President Reagan’s secretary of state — when they said, and I quote: “The four of us have come together in a nonpartisan effort deeply committed to building support for a global effort to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread into potentially dangerous hands, and to — ultimately to end them as a threat to the world. We remain committed to working toward this vision and advancing the steps essential to achieve this goal.” Do you agree with those four bipartisan national leaders in the area of national security and foreign policy?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. MCCASKILL: I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about some of the things we talked about in my office. And some people on the committee are going, oh, here she goes on contracting, but auditability of the Defense Department. I know you stated in some of the advance policy questions that you want to hold people accountable on auditability. I don’t think most Americans realize that as we face shrinking budgets and as we want to secure the pre-eminence of our military and not hollow out the spending at the Defense Department, that auditability is a crucial ingredient to us being able to figure out whether all the money that’s being spent there is being spent like Americans would want it to be spent. Can you reassure me that auditability, as prescribed by law coming through this committee, that it needs to happen no later than 2017? Can you make a commitment to me today on the record that that will be a priority of yours, making sure, as Secretary Panetta did and Secretary Gates before him, that auditability will be an essential priority of your time as secretary of defense?
Mr. HAGEL: As I told you, Senator, I will. I make that commitment to this committee.
Sen. MCCASKILL: And then turning to contracting, I have yet to have provided to me, other than raw numbers that we spent, any data that would indicate that major infrastructure rebuilding as part of a counterinsurgency strategy works. There are many things that work in a counterinsurgency strategy, and one of them, as it was originally posed to me back some six years ago on this committee by General Petraeus, was that the CERP funds — the Commanders Emergency Response Program, that that walking-around money to fix plate glass windows in neighborhoods — that that was an essential part of the COIN strategy. That morphed into our military building major infrastructure projects without really any data ever to indicate that the billions of dollars that we were spending was in fact advancing our mission, our military mission.
In addition to that, it is clear — if you want to look at Iraq and the failures that Iraq represents in some ways — one of the failures is the crumbling investments that this country made in Iraq: the health centers that never opened, the water parks that sit crumbling, the power facilities that were blown up before they even had an opportunity to operate.
I can go down billions of dollars of waste because we didn’t do the analysis on sustainability after we left.
I am convinced that we have made the same mistakes in Afghanistan, and I would like your response to this issue of major infrastructure building while we are in a conflict being conducted by our military, not by AID, not by the State Department, and whether or not you would make a commitment to come back to this committee with a report analyzing whether or not there is a data to support that aspect of the COIN strategy.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I will make that commitment, and it is part of the larger series of questions and factors always involved when a nation gets clearly committed, as we were and still are in Afghanistan and were in Iraq for years.
When you are at war, the highest, first priority to take care of your people. And as a result of that, all the rest of the normal latitude in guidance and theory, policy is secondary.
And so I think in both of those wars, because we got ourselves in so deep with so many people, and the welfare of our men and women was paramount, we tried a lot of things. We had never been this way before. We had never seen anything quite like these two situations. And as a result — and you know — our special inspector generals have come up with billions and billions and billions of dollars that are unaccounted for — corruption, fraud, waste, abuse. It really is quite astounding. But when you think about the universe of money that went into both those wars, no one should be surprised.
Now how do we fix it? What do we do? To your point, how do we learn? How do we learn from this? We need to learn from this.
And it wasn’t the fault of the military. The military was asked to do everything. We overloaded the circuits of our military. We said: You do it. You’ve got the money, you’ve got the structure, you’ve got the organization, you’ve got the people. Now go do it.
And so we put these people, these young captains — you talk about CERP funds — in very difficult spots. These young captains were given a hundred thousand dollars in cash, essentially walking around money, to take care of tribal chiefs and so on and so on. Wasn’t their fault. That — they were told to do this. This is what was part of the strategy.
So I don’t — I don’t question, necessarily, any particular strategy or part of it, but I do think it’s part of the whole that you’re talking about. And if I’m confirmed and go over there, I will take a look at this and will go deeper and wider into this, because we owe it to our people, we owe it to the people of this country, who pay the bills, and for future — what did we learn for future challenges?
Sen. MCCASKILL: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCaskill.
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Chuck, again, congratulations on your nomination. As we talked the other day, you and I have been good friends since I came to the Senate 2002 and sat next to each other for six years on the Intel Committee. And during that process you cast some votes that I questioned, but we were always able to dialogue. It never impacted our friendship, and I’m very appreciative of that.
You were also introduced by two of my dearest friends, Senator Nunn and Senator Warner, which certainly is a credit to you.
I want to drill down, Chuck, on the issue that I think is going to be very much at the forefront, probably THE number one issue you’re going to have to deal with, assuming that you’re confirmed, and that’s the issue of our relationship with Iran and where we go in the future, short term as well as long term.
Now you wrote in your book — and I quote — “We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments and ideologically driven motives. We must not repeat these errors with Iran, and the best way to avoid them is to maintain an effective dialogue.”
You then go on to advocate again, and I quote, for “a direct and strategic diplomatic initiative.”
Now, I heard you, in your opening comments, say that your position on Iran is prevention, not containment, when it comes to their nuclear weaponization. Now, I want you to expand on that.
And I want to go back to Senator Inhofe and Senator Reed’s question or comment relative to why you did not vote to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Iran is the number one terror- sponsoring state in the world. I don’t think there’s any disagreement about that. I want you to expand on your position on a nuclear- weaponized Iran and talk about red lines. If your position is truly prevention and not containment, Chuck, what is the red line? What is the point? We know there are some things happening over there right now that are very serious. So how far do we go?
Do you still advocate direct negotiations with Iran, as you said? And you made clear that all options were on the table, and you’ve stated again that military options is one of those. If you will, talk about direct — we’ve never negotiated with a terrorist state. Why do you feel like that we ought to dialogue with them, even on this issue today?
And lastly, what alterations, if any, do you think are necessary to our military force posture in the Gulf region to deter Iranian regional ambitions and support international diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability? It’s a broad statement on my part, broad question, but this is the issue, from a national security standpoint, Chuck. And I’d like you to be pretty specific.
Mr. HAGEL: Mm hmm. Well, let’s start with a specific question on a vote, regarding designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
You recall, because you were there, there were 22 senators who voted against that. The effort against it — the main point made on the floor of the Senate came from Senator Jim Webb. And his point was we have never, ever designated a part of a legitimate government, a state — and when I say “legitimate,” that doesn’t mean we agree with Iran, but it is a member of the United Nations. Almost all of our allies have embassies in Iran. So that’s why I note — an elected, legitimate government, whether we agree or not. But we have never made any part of a legitimate, independent government, designated them or made part — made them part of a terrorist organization. We’ve just — we’ve never done that.
And so you say, well, so what? What’s the big problem? The problem was that, at least 22 of us believed — and there were both Republicans and Democrats, by the way, in that vote, but it was Jim Webb who was on the floor most of the time on it — said that if you do that, that’s tantamount to giving the president of the United States authority to use military force against Iran without having to come back to get a resolution from or partner with or cooperate with the Congress of the United States, and essentially, if we vote for this, we’re giving that — we’re giving a president, in a sense, that authority.
Now, you can agree or disagree with that, but I listened to that debate, and there was some pretty thoughtful debate, and that’s — that debate, I thought, was pretty powerful with me. We were already in two wars at the time, and I thought that this made sense, and so I voted against it. That’s why I voted against that. You might also remember that Secretary-designate — almost Secretary of State Kerry voted against it. Then-President Obama — or Senator Obama — he gave speeches against it. He didn’t vote that day. Vice President Biden voted against it. Dick Lugar voted against it. Other — there were some other Republicans.
As to the Iranians — red line, Persian Gulf, some of the Iranian questions you ask, I support the president’s strong position on containment, as I’ve said. And I’ll speak more specifically to a couple of the examples you use from my book. But his position, I think, is right. And when you ask the question about red line, well, red line, I think the president has gone as far as he should go publicly on that. And he said clearly that in his words, he has Israel’s back. He said that his policy is not to allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What constitutes when action would be taken, I think that’s always something that should not be discussed publicly or debated publicly or out in the public domain.
Your quotations from my book, which you acknowledge as well that I always said that military option should be on the table — I had said that consistently as well as engaging with Iran — I always thought it’s far smarter to approach these very serious threats, including Iran, probably as significant a threat as we have out there today — although North Korea is beyond a threat, it’s a real nuclear power and quite unpredictable; I think Pakistan is another very complicated reality — but staying on Iran, I think we’re far smarter to do what the president’s been doing, which I laid out, by the way, in my book — I have a chapter on Iran, I have two chapters on Iraq, I have chapter on the Middle East — getting the world community behind us with these U.N.-sanctioned — sanctions through the Security Council of the United Nations. These are tough sanctions. They are having a tremendous impact, you know that, on Iran.
If, in fact, the military option is the only one required, I think we’re always on higher ground in every way — international law, domestic law, people of the world, people of the region to be with us on this — if we have tried and if we have gone through every possibility to resolve this in a responsible, peaceful way rather than going to war. Everything I said in my book was about that.
I don’t have a problem with engaging. I think great powers engage. I think engagement is clearly in our interests. That’s not negotiation. Engagement is not appeasement. Engagement is not surrender. I think if the time is right, the climate’s right, the dynamics are right, we should find ways if we can find ways. We can’t force it. But I think we’re always smarter and wiser to take that approach initially.
Posture in the Persian Gulf — as you know, Senator, our Fifth Fleet is located in the Persian Gulf in Bahrain. As you also know, we have a couple of carrier battle groups in that area. Our military posture there is very strong. It’s very ready. It’s very capable. These are contingencies and options that the secretary of defense, working with these chiefs, and the combatant commanders always have to give the president and make sure that we are prepared.
So let me stop there. And I may have missed some of the specific things that you wanted to discuss.
Sen. CHAMBLISS: Well, I’m understanding to say that you’re not ready to discuss red lines in a specific way. Am I hearing that right?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I don’t think that’s my role now to start with. I am not the secretary of defense. But I think the president is wise in his course of action in not discussing that publicly. I think it’s a far smarter way to handle it, and I think he has said what he needs to say. I think it’s been understood in Iran. I think the world understands his position.
By the way, I’ve just been handed a note that misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, it — meant to say that I obviously — his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment, so — I recognize I’ve had more attention paid to my words the last eight weeks than I ever thought possible.
But — so I don’t take any chances. Thank you.
Sen. CHAMBLISS: I think I understood you correct on containment and prevention.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. CHAMBLISS: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment, which is that we do not favor containment.
Mr. HAGEL: We do not favor containment. That’s the president’s position, and that’s my position, so if —
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. I just want to clarify the clarify. Now —
Mr. HAGEL: If it needs further clarification — (laughter) — that’s why I’m here. I’m —
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Chambliss. Senator Udall.
SENATOR MARK UDALL (D-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Senator Hagel.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator.
Sen. UDALL: Thank you for your service. Thank you for your willingness to once again heed the call and lead the Department of Defense.
We had a great private meeting last week. We covered many of the threats and challenges that our country faces: shrinking budgets, strategic national security shifts and assuring, as you’ve underlined over and over again already this morning, that we continue to provide fair and equal opportunities for all of our service members and their families. Again, I want to tell you I appreciate that opportunity. I’m going to take you up on your offer, if you’re confirmed, to continue sitting down with you as a member of the Armed Services Committee.
I know this issue’s already been addressed, but I want to make sure that I’m on the record as raising my concerns, and I want — because I think this committee should give you every opportunity to clarify and underline your point of view. When we met privately, you emphasized your determination to keep all options on the table with regard to Iran, including a military strike if Iran continues to pursue a nuclear program in defiance of its international obligations. You also discussed your long-standing support of Israel and our long- standing relationship.
But you have critics out there — I don’t have to tell you that — who maintain that your record on Iran is in question and that you are anti-Israel, and these are serious charges. So let me direct some questions your way. Why should Americans trust that you will consider every option when it comes to one of the most serious national security threats facing us today, which is Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, thank you for an opportunity to clarify these issues. My record has been very clear on Iran. Senator Chambliss noted from my 2008 book, in my chapter, specifically noting that I said the military option must remain on the table. I said that as recently in an op-ed that I co-authored last year in The Washington Post with two former CENTCOM commanders. We talked about Iran. And one of the very specific points we bring out in that op-ed was the military option must remain on the table, along with all the other areas of effort and expertise and diplomacy and economics and sanctions the president’s using, which I’ve already said I support. So my record is rather thorough on this, and I would continue to support that position, and I strongly support the president’s position.
Sen. UDALL: Senator, talk about the — your view on Israel, our relationship with Israel. How can we continue to have a special alliance with a country with whom we share more than an economic or political philosophy but with a — with a broader — a moral connection that we have to Israel?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I have said many times, just as I’ve said regarding the military option on Iran, many times in my book, speeches on the floor, interviews I’ve given: I’m a strong supporter of Israel. I have been. I will continue to be. I’ve also said specifically — and I believe this is in my book — that we have a special relationship with Israel.
So again, my record is pretty clear. I voted in the 12 years in the United States Senate for every authorization, every appropriation that I had an opportunity to vote on for Israel. I’ve been to Israel many times. I’ve met with their leaders many times. So again, if you look at my record, I think my record is pretty clear in my strong support for Israel.
Sen. UDALL: Senator, I heard you say when you discussed your vote against the resolution applying to the IRG, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, that in the end you were protecting the Congress’ prerogative when it comes to declaring war. Is that correct?
Mr. HAGEL: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what I was — I was saying. And I didn’t say it, I guess, that way, but that’s — that was the point. And again I say, like I have in answering some of the other questions, it wasn’t a question of the objective. I mean, I shared the objective, and I suspect all 22 members in the Senate who voted against that resolution supported the objective. But as Jim Webb made the case, I think pretty effectively — and Senator Webb was an individual that had rather considerable experience in this business. He’d been secretary of Navy under Ronald Reagan, he had been assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, one of the most decorated veterans of Vietnam, United States senator, celebrated author, lawyer. But I thought he made a pretty strong, persuasive case. So did many of us.
Sen. UDALL: Let’s turn to cyber security. I was pleased that you mentioned cyber security early in your initial remarks. The Pentagon’s moved to significantly expand its cyber security assets and knowledge. I have to talk about Colorado since I represent Colorado. The Air Force Academy is well-positioned to train those new cyber security experts. We’re also the home of Space Command and Northern Command. Would you talk a little bit more about your take on cyber security, what we ought to be doing, what sorts of resources we need.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, you may know that I’ve been to those facilities in Colorado a few times, and don’t know as much about them as you do, but I’m pretty familiar with them. They are essential to our national security.
Cyber, I believe, represents as big a threat to the security of this country as any one specific threat, for all the reasons this committee understands. It’s — it’s an insidious, quiet kind of a threat that we’ve never quite seen before. It can paralyze a nation in a second. Not just a power grid or a banking system, but it can knock out satellites. It can take down computers on all of our carrier battleships. It can do tremendous damage to our national security apparatus. That is the larger threat.
But when you start defining it down, this body — I know; I watched it — went through a pretty agonizing three months at the end of 2012 trying to find a bill that they could agree on cyber. I know — or I believe the Congress will come back at it in this new Congress. I think you must, and you know that, because we have different intergovernmental authorizations here. Department of Homeland Security. DOD. Where’s the capacity? Where are the budgets? Where are the authorities? This is law enforcement, this is privacy, business, a lot of complications that we’ve really never, ever had to face before on other national defense threats to this country.
So cyber will be an area that we’ll continue to focus on. We must. It’s an area that I will put a high priority on if I’m confirmed to be secretary of defense.
Sen. UDALL: Senator, in the 2013 NDAA, there’s a provision that compels the military to accommodate the conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs of all members of the armed forces. This sounds reasonable on the surface, but I am especially concerned that this could lead to misguided claims of a right to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, women or persons with certain religious beliefs. The president has said — I want to quote him — that the Department of Defense will, quote, “not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct,” end of his statement.
Will you ensure that the Department of Defense, in accommodating religious beliefs or conscience — matters of conscience, does not tolerate discrimination or harm to others?
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely. I will faithfully, diligently enforce our laws. All men and women deserve the same rights, and I can assure you that that will be a high priority if I — to enforce that and assure that in every way through the entire line of chain of command and accountability.
Sen. UDALL: Thank you, Senator Hagel. I look forward to the second round of questions. I know —
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. UDALL: I think it’s now afternoon, so good afternoon to you, and thank you for being here.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, thank you.
Sen. UDALL: Thanks.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Udall. Senator Wicker.
SENATOR ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Let me just follow up on that. Does that mean, though, that a chaplain would have to perform a same- sex marriage, in your view, if he objected based on conscience?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think the Pentagon regulations show, Senator, that same-sex marriage is legal in nine states.
Sen. WICKER: No, would a chaplain be able to bow out of that procedure based on conscience?
Mr. HAGEL: Certainly.
Sen. WICKER: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: What we don’t want, though —
Sen. WICKER: I appreciate —
Mr. HAGEL: — (I think ?) it’s Senator Udall’s point, is someone to be denied to be married in a chapel and a facility and so on. But certainly, a matter of conscience — what I’m talking about is a strict interpretation of defending the law, which defends rights.
Sen. WICKER: Thank you very much for clarifying that. And thank you for calling me early on. We had our conversation on January 8, and I appreciated that opportunity.
You just said that your statements over time have been — have gotten a lot more attention than you ever dreamed possible. I hope you agree that that is entirely appropriate in this context.
Chairman Levin mentioned that — in his opening statement that in speaking your mind, you had said several things that caused him concern, and he asked you about that. Senator Inhofe mentioned that several of your statements involved what some people feel are policy reversals based on expediency. And so those are concerns.
But you and I talked about two of these topics during our conversation. And one of the them was with regard to sanctions against Iran. You told me in our conversation that you opposed unilateral sanctions because they don’t work and they isolate the United States. Indeed, you had made that statement to the Omaha paper just the day before: I have not supported unilateral sanctions because, when it is us alone, they don’t work and they don’t — and they just isolate the United States — in the Omaha paper.
I have to say that that statement seems to be in direct contradiction to your letter to Senator Boxer one week later when you told her, and I quote, “I agree that with Iran’s continued rejection of diplomatic overtures, further effective sanctions, both multilateral and unilateral, may be necessary.” Now, a week before that you said that you have opposed them because they don’t work. Senator Levin mentioned in his statement he disagrees with that; he believes they do work. You gave him an answer to that statement, and we have it on the record.
But let me just suggest to you, Senator, that if words have meaning, there’s no two ways about it, the statement that you gave in the Omaha paper and that you gave to me the following day is substantially and substantively different from what you wrote to Senator Boxer a week later. The office of secretary of defense is one of the most powerful positions in the country and, arguably, in the world, and this official, whoever he or she is, must lead with clarity and precision, and people around the world need to rely on the clear meaning of the words of the secretary of defense.
Now, the other thing we discussed that gave me concern during our conversation on January 8th was your statement about the Jewish lobby. And you told me that you had apologized for using that terminology. And you retracted the use of the term “Jewish lobby.” What you said was, “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” This was in a book — an interview that you gave to Aaron David Miller. And you said, I’ve always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel.”
Here’s my problem with your position at this point. You have — you have corrected the term “Jewish lobby,” and I assume now the correct term would be “Israel lobby” or “Israeli lobby.”
Do you still stand by your statement that they succeed in this town because of intimidation and that it amounts to causing us to do dumb things? Because I want to say this, Senator. You are here today as a potential secretary of defense, and it would seem to me that however you characterize them, you have suggested that there is an effective lobby out there, whether you call them the Jewish lobby, the Israeli lobby or the Israel lobby, and that they succeed in doing dumb things through intimidation and that U.S. policy has been the wrong approach because the intimidation has worked.
So when you talked about the Jewish lobby, were you talking about AIPAC? Were you talking about NORPAC? Were you talking about Christians United for Israel? And do you still believe that their success in this town is because of intimidation and that they are, as you stated, urging upon our government that we do dumb things?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, I have never been accused of political expediency. I don’t do that. Probably gotten me in some trouble, Senator. Second, to address the last comment — then we’ll go back to sanctions —
Sen. WICKER: Very well.
Mr. HAGEL: I’ve already said I regret referencing the “Jewish lobby.” I should have said “pro-Israel lobby.” I think it’s the only time on the record that I’ve ever said that. Now, you all have done a lot of work with my record, and yes, it’s appropriate, by the way. Any nominated — nominee’s record, what he or she thinks, says, done, absolutely. I was on your side of the dais for 12 years, so I understand that and that responsibility, so I don’t have any problem with that.
So I’ve already noted that I — that I should have used another term, and I’m sorry, and I regret it. On — the — your — the use of intimidation, I should have used — “influence” I think would have been more appropriate. We were talking about, in that book — and you’ve evidently read it, Aaron David Miller’s book — and by the way, it’s a book — “The Much Too Promised Land.” He has spoken out directly over the last few weeks, written an op-ed about my position, because it’s gotten some attention, as you’ve noted, and been quite favorable to me and said much of that was taken out of context, and he was offended by it. Those were his words. Those of you who know something about Aaron David Miller know that he is Jewish; he is a highly respected individual who has counseled presidents and secretaries of state. He also says in that interview, which is a fairly short interview — he mentions that I am a strong supporter of Israel. That’s in the interview. So I think that says something.
I should not have said “dumb” or “stupid,” because I understand, appreciate there are different views on these things. We were talking about Israel. We were talking about the Middle East. We weren’t talking about Armenia or Turkey or the — or the banking influence or Chamber of Commerce influence. That was what the context of my comments were about.
On your point on the unilateral sanctions conversation and the quote, a couple of points. Let’s go back to the ILSA vote about — the original ILSA vote during the Clinton administration and connect that to a comment I made in the World-Herald about they don’t work; they’re ineffective. And by the way, I’ve already noted for the record here that I have supported and voted for some unilateral sanctions, and I think I noted three specific ones that I recall.
But on your specific question about the specific comment, just to give you an example of partly what I was talking about, you were not in the Senate at the time — some were — but those who were here in the Senate might recall the European Union’s reaction to that ILSA Act. I wasn’t in the senate when that was voted on originally, so I didn’t have a vote. But in 1998 the European Union passed a resolution against the United States and threatened to take the United States to the World Trade Organization.
As a consequence, Secretary Albright had to get into this, and as a consequence of that, President Clinton had to sign a waiver to allow a French oil company not to be part of that U.S. unilateral waiver.
Now I’m not suggesting the United States’ actions should be hostage to the European Union or any other country. But what I am suggesting is in many times — many times there are consequences to these actions.
Now every senator has their own position on these and will exercise their own judgment, as they should, and cast their own vote.
So I don’t think necessarily that there was a disconnect from what I said in the World Herald to where I’ve been on international sanctions. As the — your specific point of — about supporting unilateral sanctions as well as — as well as international sanctions, in a letter to Senator Boxer, it is a different situation, to start with. We already have very effective international sanctions on Iran. One of the things they —
Sen. WICKER: Are you saying that those two statements don’t contradict each other —
Mr. HAGEL: No.
Sen. WICKER: — the one to the Omaha paper and the one to Senator Boxer?
Mr. HAGEL: That’s right. There are two points to it. Let me finish, if I could — Senator, thank you — my second point.
My second point is this. Where we are with Iran today, the international sanctions that had been placed on Iran — that puts Iran — the United States in a far different place than where we were in 2000 or 1998 or 2001, when I did not support the reimposition — and by the way, the Bush administration didn’t either. They didn’t want a five-year reimposition, for some of the same reasons that I questioned that reimposition of five years on ILSA.
But my point in making where we are today — connecting that to unilateral sanctions — then we’ve got a different situation. Unilateral sanctions, because we’ve already got strong international sanctions, should be considered. You — I think the president’s right to consider those. I would support that, because it’s different than it was in 2001 or 1998.
Sen. WICKER: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Wicker.
SENATOR KAY HAGAN (D-NC): Thank you.
Senator Hagel, thank you for being here. Thank you for your service to our country in the military and your service in the U.S. Senate. And I also want to thank your wife and your family for standing with you today.
You played an important role in supporting Vietnam veterans impacted by the exposure to Agent Orange. I’ve been involved in a similar set of issues facing veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune, and they continue to search for answers about the effects of water contamination there. As many as a million Marines and their families stationed at the base between the early 1950s and the 1980s may have been exposed to harmful chemicals that led to the development of cancer and other ailments.
The quest for answers and looking into this has been long. It’s been drawn out. In recognition that men, women and children were dying or going broken paying out of pocket for their treatment while they were waiting for these various studies to be completed on the water contamination, we in Congress took action last year. The House and the Senate passed a bill that will provide for the treatment of veterans and their family members through the VA.
And I continue to believe that the families of those stationed at Camp Lejeune during this time period — they deserve answers from the U.S. government about who was exposed to the harmful chemicals, what impact that might have had on their health and what the government knew about this exposure.
And I’ve been fighting for answers with a group of other committed senators on a bipartisan basis, and along the way progress has been slowed by endless bureaucratic delays and obstacles.
My question to you is, do you agree that these Marines and the families deserve complete answers about the water contamination that occurred at Camp Lejeune, and if confirmed, will you pledge to work with us to overcome any bureaucratic hurdles that may halt or delay the pursuit of answers for the affected Marines and their family members?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, thank you. You noted that we had a long conversation about this. I committed to you in your office; I will make that commitment in front of this committee I will do that. There should never, ever be a question about health and the safety and the environment that we put our men and women and their families in when we ask them to make sacrifices and to serve this country. And I am committed to do that, and we’ll have further conversations.
Sen. HAGAN: Thank you.
I know you have answered a number of questions about Israel already today, but I do have one I want to ask you also. There is a special and historic bond between the U.S. and Israel, and I am personally committed to Israel’s security and identity as a Jewish state. When we met earlier this week, I was pleased to hear you say you agree and that you also support a two-state solution and oppose any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
We also discussed the need for a strong military and intelligence engagement between the U.S. and Israel. Just last fall I was in Israel, and I have spoken with senior military officials from both countries. And I have continually heard that the ties between our military and our intelligence organizations have never been stronger. If confirmed, do you intend to maintain this close relationship, and do you have any ideas for how we can further strengthen this coordination?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I would once again reaffirm the commitment that I made to you, to this committee. I absolutely support the continuation and the strengthening of our relationship with Israel. As has been noted before, in my book, a chapter I have on Israel, I talk about the special and historic relationship between the United States and Israel.
It is critically important that the qualitative military edge that we have assured Israel since 1948 be maintained and be enhanced. The Iron Dome is, I think, but one example. The latest military exercise we had with the Israelis last fall, Austere Challenge — it was the largest military exercise between our two countries in the history of our two countries. I think our intelligence agencies are working closer and are stronger and more coordinated than ever before.
I think this president has done as much to support Israel as any president, as I mentioned earlier, since Harry Truman. And I would look forward to continuing to follow those policies and enhance those policies.
Sen. HAGAN: Thank you.
I wanted to ask a question on sequestration. Stopping sequestration from occurring is very important to me. North Carolina — we have seven military institutions — installations, and we have over a hundred thousand active-duty service members in my state. And I believe that these cuts are going to harm our national security, will impair our readiness, will defer necessary maintenance that will help keep our troops safe and delay important investments in research and procurement as well as stunt our economic recovery at this time.
I don’t believe we can allow these cuts to move forward. Congress needs to work on a bipartisan basis on a balanced plan that will help eliminate this threat of sequestration. Also, we have to reduce our deficit and protect the critical investments in areas in our national defense.
We — when we spoke earlier this week, I was pleased to hear you say that you did not support these indiscriminate, unprioritized cuts that sequestration would cause. If allowed to take effect, how will sequestration impact the department’s ability to meet the future threats and challenges?
As I shared with you, I chair the subcommittee of this committee on emerging threats and capabilities, so I’m particularly interested in your thoughts. We were commenting earlier to Senator Udall’s question on cyber security issues, obviously being considered in the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.
So my question is, what impact do you believe that these cuts would have on our service members and their families at home and abroad? And in particular the cuts in the sequestration, how would this impact areas such as cyber security and the other areas?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, as we have said this morning and you know, the chiefs have made very clear, as Secretary Panetta, there will be consequences, significant consequences, to the management of our Defense Department and our ability to have the flexibility to make the decisions, not just for the immediate but for the future. When you hang that kind of uncertainty over any institution, but especially the institution changed with national security in our country, it’s very dangerous.
Readiness is obviously the No. 1 priority, and we’ll continue to do that. The chiefs have already started to work through this, and I think in some of the public statements they’ve made, we’re preparing for that. They will be prepared if — in the event that sequestration does take effect, will be ready to deal with it. But this is going to be very difficult.
And we talked a little earlier here this morning about we are going to have to reduce training, steaming time, flying time. But I think the American people do need to be reassured, as I think Secretary Panetta and the chiefs have, that the security of this country is not going to be in jeopardy. But it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to affect longer-term kinds of planning. But make no mistake; if this happens, this is going to be a severe problem.
Sen. HAGAN: My time is up. Thank you for your comments.
SEN LEVIN: Senator Hagan, thank you so much.
Now, we’re going to work right through the vote that’s going on now, but we’re going to take a 10-minute recess right now and come right back. And then we’re going to call on Senator Ayotte and then Senator Manchin. They’re next in line. And I urge them to go vote and come right back.
So we will now recess for 10 minutes. (Sounds gavel.)
Sen. LEVIN: We will come back to order.
SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): Thank you, Chairman.
I want to thank you, Senator Hagel, for your service to our country and for being here today in this important hearing. And I want to thank your family as well.
Senator Hagel, I think we’ve established, as I understand it from the prior questions you’ve been asked, in July of 2001 you were one of only two senators to vote against extending the Iran Sanctions Act, the sanctions in that act. That’s a vote you’ve agreed that you’ve taken, correct?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. AYOTTE: Yes or no — yes. And that was when you were only one of two senators in the entire Senate to vote against that.
Also in 2008, I believe you were asked, you were again one of two senators within the Senate Banking Committee, though not the entire Senate, to vote against the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability Act of 2008. Is that right?
Mr. HAGEL: That’s right.
Sen. AYOTTE: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. AYOTTE: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: I’m sorry — yes.
Sen. AYOTTE: Yes. Thank you, Senator.
As I understand it, on October 2nd of 2008, Majority Leader Harry Reid brought a similar bill to the floor. In fact, it was called the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability Act of 2008. And he brought it to the floor on October 2nd of 2008. There have been media reports that you blocked unanimous consent for the consideration of that bill. Are those true or not?
Mr. HAGEL: I was one of some Republican senators who did not want that vote to go forward. I voted against it in subcommittee. And the reason I did was because the Bush administration did not want that bill to go forward. The reason that they didn’t is because they were involved in negotiations with the Russians in the U.N. and Security Council members to put multilateral sanctions on Iran.
Sen. AYOTTE: Thank you. But just to be clear, you did block unanimous consent of that bill —
Mr. HAGEL: I was part of an effort —
Sen. AYOTTE: — (inaudible). OK.
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, that’s right.
Sen. AYOTTE: Thank you. And also, you know, would it surprise you that an earlier version of that sanctions bill was actually co- sponsored by Secretary Kerry, Secretary Clinton and President Obama at the time? You were not a co-sponsor. Would that surprise you?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, no, not necessarily. I didn’t ever base my vote, Senator, on what everybody else thought or did. I voted based on what I thought was right.
Sen. AYOTTE: And also we, of course — the sanctions that are in place now, that bill or its next generation passed the United States Senate after you left in a vote of 99 to zero. And no one in the Senate, in fact, voted against that. So that is then our clear policy of the bill, really, the next generation of the bill that you blocked in the Senate.
I want to ask you also about your position with respect to involvement in the Global Zero. I know many people have asked you questions about this.
Mr. HAGEL: Mm-hmm.
Sen. AYOTTE: Here’s what’s troubling me. You’ve testified before this committee today that you’ve never been for unilateral — unilateral nuclear disarmament; in other words, unilateral actions by the United States of America.
Yet this report itself, which you call an illustration, its illustration or recommendation, or however you want to frame it, is to actually — there are many recommendations in it. One of them is to eliminate a leg of our triad, which is the land-based ICBMs. You would agree with that. That’s the illustration that is contained in this report, or you call it an illustration. Is that right?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I call it an illustration, Senator, because that’s the term it used at the front end of the report —
Sen. AYOTTE: Well, let —
Mr. HAGEL: — not a recommendation.
Sen. AYOTTE: Well, let me talk about the other terms that this report uses, because this report twice, as Senator Sessions asked you, on page one and on page 16, says that the illustrations were this example given in this report, one of which is eliminating a leg of our triad, nuclear triad, could be implemented unilaterally.
So here’s what I’m struggling with. Why would you ever put your name on a report that is inherently inconsistent with what you’re telling us today, is that you’ve never been for unilateral disarmament as a possibility?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, it’s not inconsistent, I don’t believe, Senator. But you used the term “could.”
That’s a pretty important operative word in the report. The report does not recommend we do these things. The report says “could” — illustrative scenarios, possibilities. And you probably know the four other individuals who were involved in that report, mainly General Cartwright, the former strategic commander and —
Sen. AYOTTE: And, Senator Hagel, I know we don’t have a lot of time here. I don’t dispute the qualifications or the service of the prior individuals — the other individuals that are involved in this report, but of all the illustrations and of all the “coulds” you could pick, this report says that the president could implement these unilaterally, although that’s inconsistent with what you say is your position, yet you signed off on this.
This report also says, of all the illustrations you could have picked, the illustration is eliminating a leg of our nuclear triad. So one thing that troubles me is that of all the things that this group could have picked as what you call an illustration is a significant reduction in our nuclear deterrent. So to me I view that as troubling and inconsistent. And one thing I would hope you wouldn’t do as secretary of defense is to sign off on a report that would say something like, unilateral — like this one does, that could be implemented unilaterally, that’s different thank your philosophy or our policy.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, as secretary of defense I won’t be signing off on reports in the same way as a private citizen, obviously. I will have a different kind of responsibility if I’m confirmed by the Senate. But I don’t think that there’s anything that also changes my position in that report, because there was a letter sent, which you may have, to the president of the United States —
Sen. AYOTTE: Just so we’re clear — and I don’t want to interrupt you but we don’t have a lot of time. Just so we’re clear, you don’t view what you’re telling us today and the language in this report is inconsistent.
Mr. HAGEL: I do not because it wasn’t a recommendation. The report also says, and the authors of it says — have always said none of this can be any reductions unilateral, just like any strategic arms reduction treaty that we’ve signed. Both Republican and Democrats have led on that. It has to be bilateral, it has to be verifiable, has to be negotiated. I’ve always been there, and that’s where we have been on this report.
Sen. AYOTTE: Okay, thank you.
May I follow up on the discussion about containment, nuclear containment with Iran? And I wanted to — there seem to be — the first question I would have is you said very clearly to Senator Levin that you believe that a military option should be on the table with respect to Iran. In fact, I think you said, I do, I have, and I strongly agree in terms of that being one of the options the president of the United States would have in addressing Iran, is the language that you said.
Can you help me understand, when you went to Islamabad, Pakistan in 2006, you said at that time that a military strike against Iran, an military option, is not a “viable, feasible or responsible option.” And it strikes me that what you’re saying about the military option now and even — it seems inconsistent with that statement. And why would you make that statement in Pakistan that it’s not a “viable, feasible or responsible option” in light of your statement today that you do, I have, and I strongly agree that a military option should be on the table?
Mr. HAGEL: That statement was made in a context of all options regarding Iran. And Pakistan was where I was at the time. And the larger context of that was nuclear powers, which certainly Pakistan is part of that club. And not unlike what Secretary Gates said about a strike on Iran, my point was that this would not be a preferable option. There would be consequences to this option. Things would happen as a result of it. If we could find a better option, a better way to deal with Iran to assure they do not get nuclear weapons, then we’re far better off. That was the context of that statement.
Sen. AYOTTE: Senator Hagel, I know that my time is up and I know we’ll have an opportunity for a second round of questions, but as I see your quote it didn’t say “preferable option;” it said, was not a responsible option.
And I view those words as having a very different meaning. So I look forward to following up in the subsequent round of questioning. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Ayotte.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Senator Hagel, thank you so much — and your family — for your service and for putting your services on the line for us. I appreciate it very much.
And I’d like to say this: You and I have not known each other before. I never had the pleasure of serving with you, which I wish I would have. And we had a great conversation. You bring a fresh — a breath of fresh air; truly a breath of fresh air to this process in a bipartisan way, having two great senators sitting by your side — one a Democrat, one a Republican — that basically supports you wholeheartedly speaks volumes in the process that we have today.
With that being said, also, everyone’s been so fixated on your past, what you’ve said. And I think you’ve — I’ve come to learn in the very short time I’ve been a senator that this town and this process and this body has become almost a guilt by conversation. With that being said, I respect you being the person being able to say what you thought needed to be said. You voted the way you thought you should be voting for your constituents and your country. And you weren’t really driven by your party or by any pressure groups. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had served with you. Sometimes I feel very lonely. (Laughter.)
With all that being said, sir, we’re asked to consider you as a part of a Cabinet. Is there anything that would lead us to believe that you wouldn’t follow the orders that were given?
Mr. HAGEL: No. I understand clearly the responsibilities of secretary of defense. As I said in my opening statement, those responsibilities are very serious. I don’t know of many jobs that are more serious. And I would, obviously, always make every decision for the Defense Department and my advice to the president based on only one thing, and that’s the security of this country.
Sen. MANCHIN: I looked back at your record. You and I come from the same era; we’re very close in age. And I remember the Vietnam era very well. And that, I think, shaped all of us to a certain extent of how we looked after post-Vietnam of how we would have look at it if we had known what we knew before. And I’m sure that kind of guided you as you looked at this — the Iraq. And I saw the information that we were given. If had been a senator, probably, I might have voted also like many people that were misled. But after having seen five or six years of that unfortunate scenario play out, the surge — and I know where you’re coming from.
Would you say that your experiences in Vietnam and looking at basically what sometimes — our misguided had been, shaped a lot of your positions today?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, there’s no question that, as I have said this morning, that my experience in Vietnam very much guided the questions. I think I noted a couple of times in my opening statement that there was one fundamental question that I always asked: Was the policy worthy of the men and women that we are asking to make the sacrifices? And I know there are differences of opinion.
You mentioned Iraq; you mentioned the surge. My positions there were very much guided by, well, what is the political purpose of the surge? Where do we go from here? Yes, there’ll be — you put 35,000 more American troops in an area for a sustained period of time or more, on top of more than 100,000 we already — we already had there, you’ll have a tactical victory, but there’ll be a cost for that victory and that’s what always guided me. Do we understand the costs? Are we prepared to make those costs in lives? And then, where was the bigger answer here? Where were we going with the surge? How was this going to take us, advance us, to where we needed to go? And where did we think we needed to go? So yes, those experiences did shape my questions.
Sen. MANCHIN: And I appreciate that.
Let me just say — speaking of now, what we deal with and the concerns that people have had with your nomination — the support of Israel.
I have no doubt in my mind your support of Israel as our greatest ally and we’d always be there. I think you’ve answered that. I think we all feel very comfortable with that.
I think also your commitment that Iran should not under any circumstances have the ability to have a nuclear weapon, and I appreciate that position very much.
Where we go with the strength of our Army if we have our military might and Department of Defense, the National Guard — how does the National Guard play in your role of thinking what they should be doing and what they could be doing?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, the National Guard, as you know now, has a chair at the table with the Joint Chiefs. And General Grass represents the National Guard effectively — a new, as you know, chief.
But their role will continue to be important, as will the Reserves. I think we saw over the last 12 years of war how important our National Guard is, and the Reserves. We could not have conducted those two wars without the National Guard and Reserves.
I think that’s professionalized both services. They’re going to continue to be necessary. They’re important. Their training, their credibility, their leadership — that’s obviously why the decision was made to assure their representation with the Joint Chiefs. And I strongly support the National Guard and Reserves.
Sen. MANCHIN: Personally I think that Senator McCaskill touched on things I’m very concerned about. Every time I hear about sequestering and people tell me that if we do a sequestering it could destroy our ability to defend our self and have the military might that we do, I don’t see that whatsoever and I follow the statistics. I followed all the post-war eras from — starting with Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, and where we are today. This will be the least amount of money that we’ve asked to draw down under any post-war time, but yet everyone’s hollering that it will be devastating.
And I know there’s a way to do that, but — the contracting — we’re having a hard time getting our hands around the contracting, the cost of contracting, the ability for people in the contracting world to be reimbursed by over $700,000 — almost twice what the president gets paid.
Some of these things — would you embrace working with us and sitting down and looking and embracing an audit? Myself and Tom Coburn have had legislation asking for a complete audit of Department of Defense. Your thoughts on those two things, sir?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, of course I will. And as I had noted this morning —
Sen. MANCHIN: Yeah.
Mr. HAGEL: I’m committed to do that. I will do it. Accountability is a primary responsibility of any institution or organization. That’s clearly in the purview of the Congress. We have to do it. We’ve got to improve in the process.
We talked a little bit this morning about the astounding amount of waste, fraud and abuse the inspector general — special inspector generals both in Iraq and Afghanistan have found. I am committed, as I have said, to assure that we make that deadline of 2017 on the audits, and I will work with you closely on that.
Sen. MANCHIN: And my time is up. And one thing I want to state that we talked about in my office is the commitment to help our returning veterans get jobs. The jobs caucus — Hire a Vet — it’s so important. I appreciate your support for that. I look forward to working with you — we can put more of our vets back to work when they come home and get them back into mainstream America.
Thank you, sir, and I look forward to voting for you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Manchin.
SENATOR DEBRA FISCHER (R-NE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Inhofe.
Good afternoon, Senator. It’s good to see you again.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. FISCHER: I want to begin by thanking you for your service to our country and to the state of Nebraska, and I do appreciate your continued willingness to serve the United States.
But I need to be honest with you: After our meeting last week I still have some concerns about your nomination. Many of my colleagues are concerned that you’ve changed your views, and I share that concern. But I must admit that I’m more worried that your views have not changed. From your meeting with me last week it was clear that you maintain the views that have led to so much scrutiny of your nomination.
Despite these recent claims to the contrary, you continue to hold, I believe, extreme views far to the left of even this administration, in particular your clear statement to me during our meeting that if given the opportunity to recast your vote on the Iranian sanctions, you would still oppose those sanctions. I believe that that indicates that you hold these concerning views.
Our nation faces many challenges, perhaps none greater or more immediate than Iran’s continued progress towards obtaining nuclear weapons.
At the same time, the Department of Defense is entering a period of transformation that will likely define its role for many decades to come. The future of our nuclear deterrent could depend on our choices made by the next secretary of defense.
I’m going to bring up the report that we’ve heard about quite a bit. You’re listed as a co-author of that May 2012 Global Zero report on our nuclear posture. I believe there is a recommendation in there, and I believe that the recommendation is to drastically reduce the United States nuclear forces.
When we spoke last week, you described this report as being authored by General Cartwright. And I had the impression, and I believe you implied to me that you weren’t closely affiliated with it, but you are listed as a co-author of that report, as one of the five co-authors.
Moreover, you told me at that time that this report discussed options. You’ve reiterated that stance today. But after I have reexamined it once again, the only options that I have found in the report are related to how best achieve those drastic reductions that I believe it advises.
There are no alternative views or dissenting opinions that are presented or discussed in the report. It states many controversial opinions. It states them as facts in support of its conclusion. And I believe it’s important to determine whether or not you agree with those positions.
As it’s been said before, my time here is limited, and so I’d like to quickly go through and review some of those more concerning proclamations that it makes, with you. I would appreciate if we could kind of go through this quickly.
For example, the United States, I see, “ICBM force has lost its central utility.” That’s stated in the report. Do you agree with that?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, that report was not a recommendation. That report, as we have said (is ?) in the report, was a series of scenarios. Again, I use the term “illustrative” because that was the beginning of the report as possible ways we could continue to reduce our warheads, not unilaterally, but bilaterally.
Every treaty we’ve ever signed to reduce warheads and the thrust capability with the Russians has been about reductions. So that’s not new; that’s where it’s always been.
But ICBMs, the specific questions — it’s a 25-page report, I assume you’ve read it — talked about one of the reasons ICBMs may well eventually be insignificant because of the overflight over Russia and so on. Now, those aren’t fictional analyses; those are facts.
Now, no one is recommending in that report — and you probably know General Cartwright, when he was in Omaha you probably got acquainted with him. These are serious people who understand this business. And no one is recommending that we unilaterally do away with our ICBMs.
What that report was about was looking at where this is all going. Again, the title of the report was “Modernizing our Nuclear Strategy,” not eliminating.
Sen. FISCHER: Correct. But do you agree with the statement made in the report that the ICBMs, that force has lost its central utility?
Mr. HAGEL: That’s not what the report said.
Sen. FISCHER: I have it cited, Senator. And with respect, I can enter that into the record. But it is cited in the report.
Mr. HAGEL: The report, in the overall context, ICBMs and all of the parts of that report were about the utilities of our triad, where is this going, and the money that we’re investing in it, and we have to look at it.
I think those kinds of reports are valuable to assess our needs, to assess or nuclear capability, to assess our nuclear deterrent. I mean, we do studies all the time. This was not an official report from an official government. Think tanks do this all the time; I think that’s valuable.
I mean, we do studies all the time. This was not an official report from an official government. Think tanks do this all the time. I think that’s valuable.
Now, whether policymakers —
Sen. FISCHER: I do think — excuse me — I do think that reports from various organizations — think tanks, individuals, groups — I think those are all very important in getting information and opinions out there. But when you co-author a report, I think you should be able to answer if you agree with statements that are made in the report.
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t — I do not agree with any recommendation that would unilaterally take any action to further reduce our nuclear warheads on our capability. But again, that’s not the — what the report said. But I do not agree with that. Every option that we must look at, every action we must take to reduce warheads or anything should be bilateral. It should be verifiable. It should be negotiated.
Sen. FISCHER: Every action that this country takes need to be bilateral?
Mr. HAGEL: I didn’t say that. I said in nuclear capabilities and our warheads. When we’re talking about reducing warheads — as every treaty we’ve signed with the Russians has been bilateral; it’s been verifiable. Ronald Reagan said it best: Trust but verify. And I think that’s the key word. He also said, as I said this morning, we should wipe nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. I think almost every president has agreed with that, including, by the way, this president — has seen this report. World leaders do agree with a continued reduction.
And this is not a report that’s out of the mainstream at all. President Obama has said in his Prague speech in 2009 that that’s — that was his goal, as Ronald Reagan, as many presidents.
Sen. FISCHER: Thank you. If I could continue on this vein of questioning, please. Also, the — if I — if I read the report, it calls for all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to be eliminated over the next 10 years and asserts that their military utility is practically nil. Do you agree with that statement?
Mr. HAGEL: It — Senator, I don’t believe it “calls for.” These are scenarios and schedules and possibilities and options. But none of this could ever, ever happen unless it would be negotiated bilateral and verifiable. And that was part of a letter that the Global Zero (growth ?) group sent to the president in 2009, specifically stating that.
If I — if I might, I might give you a more recent example of that. Senator Feinstein’s subcommittee —
Sen. FISCHER: Just a quick one, please.
Mr. HAGEL: — had a hearing on this last year. And in that hearing — and the committee can get the transcript if it doesn’t — General Cartwright and Admiral Pickering — or Ambassador Pickering — testified. And they went into this, that this is all — everything, with any action we would take, would have to be negotiated, it would have to be bilateral — no unilateral action. And they made that point again on the record in front of Senator Feinstein’s subcommittee. And I — and I support that. I agree with that.
Sen. FISCHER: Right. I have another statement from the report: The United States ICBM rapid reaction posture remains in operation and runs a real risk of accidental or mistaken launch. I think that statement’s pretty clear. Do you agree with that?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. I mean, I think accidental launches and those kinds of things are always to be concerned about. And we need to assure, as we have over the years, that that doesn’t happen both on the —
Sen. FISCHER: That we run a real risk of accidental and mistaken launch?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, if you take “real” out and you just put “risk” — but there’s always a risk. I mean, there — when we’re talking about nuclear weapons and the consequences, as you know — you know, you don’t get a lot of second chances. So we need to be very sure about these things. And I think that was the whole point.
Sen. LEVIN: I think you need to save any additional questions for the second round, if you would, because —
Sen. FISCHER: Oh, I’m sorry — I don’t — thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: You may not have gotten a card. I’m sorry if you didn’t.
Sen. FISCHER: Oh, thank you very much.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Senator.
Sen. FISCHER: Thank you, Senator.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Fischer.
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Senator Hagel, for testifying today. I appreciate that you’ve brought your family with you. I appreciate the support of your wife.
I’m going to submit several questions for the record because they’re important to me as a senator from New York, particularly about New York bases, cyber security and children of military families with disabilities. But today I want to focus on the most urgent issues, from my perspective.
I want to talk more about your thoughts on Israel and Israel’s security.
I want to talk about Afghanistan, and I want to talk about personnel issues.
So on Israel, obviously our relationship with Israel is tremendously important. Israel — we are fundamentally tied to them because of being such a strong democracy in the Middle East and having our national securities very much being tied in many ways.
We talked quite a bit about Iran, and you’ve clarified your position that containment is not an option. I’m concerned about a statement you said with regard to Iran. A nuclear Iran is an existential threat to the United States as well as Israel.
The Iranian government has been responsible for the deaths of U.S. service members, an attempted attack on U.S. soil, the funding, training of terrorist groups. Their latest in a long list of direct threats to Israel came just today.
So I want to make sure that — in your statement earlier today with regard to whether Iran is legitimate, I can understand if you meant it’s a legal entity that has international relations and has diplomatic relations and is a member of the U.N., but I do not see Iran or the Iranian government as a legitimate government. And I’d like your thoughts on that.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Senator.
What I meant to say, should have said, it’s recognizable. It’s been recognized, is recognized at the United Nations. Most of our allies have embassies there. That’s what I should have said. And thank you.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: You’re welcome.
With regard to Israel, Israel’s security is very important. And I’ve been one of the strongest advocates for our alliance, fighting for more increases in missile defense cooperation as well as coordination on a number of the technology programs that are fundamental to Israel’s security.
Last year Iron Dome more than proved itself as missiles from Gaza continually headed towards Israel. In December, Ranking Member Inhofe and I successfully pushed for full funding of the U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense system.
Will you personally support robust funding for Iron Dome, David’s Sling and other programs? Will you also — if we have to have a continuing resolution, the funding for Iron Dome will be well below the authorized amount for fiscal year 2013. In such a case, will you recommend either reprogramming other funds or sending forth an anomaly budget requesting to fully cover our commitment to this program?
Mr. HAGEL: First, I fully support and will continue to fully support Iron Dome and Arrow and David’s Sling.
As to a commitment to the second part of your question, I would have to better understand what our restrictions are going to be in our budgets before I could make any decisions like that. And I would ask to talk with our chairman of the Joint Chiefs and each of the chiefs and want to better understand, depending on how bad and deep this sequestration might get.
But make no mistake, it’s clearly a priority program. I believe we will continue to fund it. We should. I’ll support the continuing funding.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: Well, I hope you’ll also be a strong advocate, because our budget is, even under sequestration, significant. And this is a very high priority certainly for me.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, if I’m confirmed, we’ll work together, as I will with this committee, on this and other issues.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: Thank you.
A number of members were just in Egypt and we met with President Morsi. And obviously we are very concerned about the Sinai becoming a route for arms coming straight from Libya going to terrorist groups. And we obviously are very concerned about — we give a billion and a half or a billion-point-two to Egypt in aid. And we want to figure out if there’s a way to put some of those funds towards more antiterrorism missions, as opposed to the typical technology.
Do you have any thoughts on that and what we can do to really try to assist in cracking down on the weapons trade?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, it’s a huge challenge and part of obviously what allows terrorists, extremists, to advance their cause. Maritime security, piracy issues — I mentioned in my opening statement that that’s all part of why we need to rebalance resources and why we need the kind of flexible, agile resource base, in particular our Navy, to be able to do this.
It also is going to continue to take cooperation with our allies. We can’t do this, as good as our intelligence is, best in the world, military best in the world, with the largest, wealthiest country in the world, but we have to work with allies.
And we’ve got to find that through intelligence before it gets beyond the capacity to be used to do damage against the interests of this country and our allies.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: Well, as Israel is one of our most important allies, one of the growing risks we have now is Syria, particularly chemical weapons being not properly locked down. And there’s concern — and obviously with what happened yesterday, will — I suspect that there’s been very close cooperation between our militaries on contingency plans with respect to Syria’s chemical weapons. But will this be something that you can focus your concern on because of your past statements about the Israel-Hezbollah War in 2006? Is this something that you will also commit to in keeping this alliance strong and making sure we have a strong contingency plan with regard to any chemical weapons coming out of Syria?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. And by the way, I have said on the record many times that Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist groups. And I’ve said many times in the record that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. So yes, I’m committed to do that and will do that.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: Okay. For my last minute, with regard to Afghanistan, we’ve heard your views — and you didn’t give a specific statement about how many troops, when, but will you, in your capacity as secretary of defense, advise the president that we should be drawing down troops sooner rather than later?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think he’s made that pretty clear that he wants to do that. And if I am confirmed, I will need to better understand all the dimensions of this. I don’t know all those dimensions. And I think that there’s little question that — and I support completely where the president wants to go in Afghanistan and his commitment to unwind that war. As we’ve said, there should be, there will be — he’s noted that he will in fact enforce a new policy, a new relationship based on a limited objective for our troops there, and I support that.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: My last question — that I’ll submit for the record, but you and I talked at length about it — obviously the personnel of our military is our most important asset, and when we hear reports that there are upwards of 19,000 sexual assaults in the military against women, it’s unacceptable. We also have finally repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” but it’s difficult for a military spouse to even go to the commissary and be on base or be notified if a spouse is killed in action.
I need a strong commitment from you that you will treat our military families and look after them in the way you would look after your own. I want you to be concerned about every man and woman in the military, that their well being is being looked after, and see real advocacy and leadership, not status quo, not implementing whatever we put forward, but actually fighting for them every single day.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, you have my complete commitment on that. I have made that commitment to, I think, all the members of the committee that I’ve spoken to directly and privately. Again, I mentioned that point in my opening statement, if you recall. I think I have a pretty clear record on that in my life. I will continue to do that, will do that. And I agree; it’s not good enough just to say “zero tolerance.” The whole chain of command needs to be accountable for this all the way down to the bottom, so I will.
Sen. GILLIBRAND: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Gillibrand. Senator Graham?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, congratulations on your appointment. You’re a good, honest man and I really appreciate your willingness to serve the country in the past and your willingness to do so in the future.
What percentage of GDP do we spend on defense?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think it’s probably 5 percent now, in that area, and our budget, our discretionary budget —
Sen. GRAHAM: Is that historically high or low?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think generally it depends on real dollars and wars, but —
Sen. GRAHAM: Are we at war?
Mr. HAGEL: We’re at war in Afghanistan. We’re at war around the world with the active —
Sen. GRAHAM: So you agree with me we’re at war in Afghanistan, we’re at war around the world, so when you look at spending on defense, every senator should be aware of the fact we’re still at war. Do you agree with that?
Mr. HAGEL: I’m sorry, your question —
Sen. GRAHAM: Do you agree that every senator, every member of Congress should be wide-eyed in understanding that when you vote on a defense budget, we’re at war?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I do.
Sen. GRAHAM: Okay, thank you.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about statements you’ve made. You’ve explained this a bit. You said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I’m not an Israeli senator; I’m a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.” You said “the Jewish lobby” should not have been — that term shouldn’t have been used, it should have been some other term. Name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first —
Sen. GRAHAM: Name one.
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t know.
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, why would you say it?
Mr. HAGEL: I didn’t have in mind a specific person.
Sen. GRAHAM: Do you agree it’s a provocative statement, that I can’t think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel and the Senate or the Congress than what you said? Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby.
Mr. HAGEL: I have already stated that I regret the terminology I used.
Sen. GRAHAM: But you said back then, “It makes us do dumb things.” You can’t name one senator intimidated. Now give me one example of the dumb things that we’re pressured to do up here.
Mr. HAGEL: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel.
Sen. GRAHAM: So give me an example of where we’ve been intimidated by the Israeli Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Mideast, Israel, or anywhere else.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I can’t give you an example.
Sen. GRAHAM: Thank you. Do you agree with me you shouldn’t have said something like that?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I do. I’ve already said that.
Sen. GRAHAM: Now, do you agree with me that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. GRAHAM: Now, in 2006, you were one of 12 senators who refused to sign the letter to the European Union asking them to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization for the purposes of the E.U. sanctioning Hezbollah. Why were you one of 12 who refused to sign that letter?
Mr. HAGEL: Because I have generally had a policy during my time in the Senate that I didn’t think it was the right approach for the Congress of the United States to be sending leaders any instructions or any documents versus letting our president do that. And I — as I have already stated —
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, why did you sign a letter to Bill Clinton urging him to deal with the Russians when it comes to their policy against Jewish people?
Mr. HAGEL: Because I think that’s the appropriate approach, because I think it’s our president who conducts foreign policy.
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, all I could suggest to you is that when a letter is presented to a United States senator about the times in which we live in, you can’t write one letter and not write the other and in my view be consistent.
And the letter was urging the E.U. to impose sanctions on Hezbollah, and you’ve been a big believer that we shouldn’t go it alone, we shouldn’t do it unilaterally. Why in the world wouldn’t you take this chance to urge the European Union to go ahead and sanction Hezbollah because it may help the world at large deal with this terrorist organization? And your answer is you just don’t think we should be writing letters.
Mr. HAGEL: That wasn’t my answer. My answer was I think the president of the United States is the appropriate official —
Sen. GRAHAM: So Congress has no interest at all in whether or not the E.U. would designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization? Do you think that’s our role up here, that we should just stay out of those things?
Mr. HAGEL: The Congress has an interest and responsibility in all things, but I —
Sen. GRAHAM: OK. I’ve got you. Now, let me — apparently not there.
Now, let me ask you this about the Iranian revolutionary guard. You said just a minute ago you think they’re a terrorist organization. Do you agree with that?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. GRAHAM: OK. And you voted against the amendment designating them a terrorist organization because you thought we’d be going down the wrong road by doing that because they are a recognized state — Iran. You wouldn’t want to designate the army of recognized state as a terrorist organization.
Mr. HAGEL: I said Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I also just clarified a statement on Iran being a recognized nation by the United Nations, by most world bodies. The reason, again — I’ll explain it again — why I did not vote, as 22 other members did —
Sen. GRAHAM: Right.
Mr. HAGEL: — because I think Jim Webb’s argument was a strong argument, and that was we have never — this is what he said on the floor – designated part of a government as a terrorist organization. Thereby — what his concern was, as was mine and other senators who voted against it — would this be then tantamount to giving the president of the United States authority from the Congress to take military action against Iran.
Sen. GRAHAM: I got you.
Now, let me just ask you this: Do you believe that the sum total of all of your votes, refusing to sign a letter to the EU asking Hezbollah to be designated a terrorist organization, being one of 22 to vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, being one of two to on two occasions to vote against sanctions that this body was trying to impose on Iran, the statements you’ve made about Palestinians and about the Jewish lobby — all that together — that the image you’ve created is one of sending the worst possible signal to our enemies and friends at one of the most critical times in world history?
Mr. HAGEL: No. I would not agree with that, because I have taken actions and made statements, very clear, as to what I believe Hezbollah and Hamas are as terrorist organizations. In fact —
Sen. GRAHAM: If you were — if there was a vote on the floor of the Senate this afternoon to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — the people who’ve killed our soldiers in Iraq, some of the most vicious people to the people in Iran themselves — if there were a vote tomorrow or this afternoon or after lunch, would you still vote no?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I would want to know from the president what they were doing. But again —
Sen. GRAHAM: I mean, you read the paper; you watch TV. Have you got any doubt what they’re doing? They’re expanding terrorism; they’re trying to intimidate their own people. They’re the instrument of the theocracy to oppress their own people and they’re the biggest supporter of the regime, keeping them in power, so then they get a nuclear weapon.
If you had a chance tomorrow — today, after lunch, to vote to say that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was a terrorist organization, would you still vote no?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, the reason I voted no to start with begins with —
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, I know why you told me that. My question is, would you reconsider and would you vote yes this time or would you still vote no?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, times change. I recognize that. And yes, I would reconsider. But the whole —
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, thank you. That’s encouraging. My time is up, but we’ll have another round.
Senator Inhofe said that you were one of four senators who refused to sign a letter in October. And the first paragraph says, “We write you” — “We write to you to express our solidarity with the State of Israel at this moment of crisis and our profound disappointment and frustration with PLO Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. We’re dismayed that they would allow violence by Palestinians to be carried out without restraint or comment.”
This was when the intifada was being — raging and Senator Inhofe, led by Daschle and Lott, wanted a letter from every member of this body to clearly put us on record that we believe Arafat and the intifada is undercutting the agreements they had reached and they had resorted to violence to intimidate the Israeli government and people in a way that was just absolutely unacceptable.
If you had a chance to do it over, would you sign this letter now? And I’m going to give it to you, during whatever break we have, and ask you to reconsider. I would ask you, Senator Hagel, to tell the country, the world at large — particularly the State of Israel — you made a mistake by not signing that letter.
Mr. HAGEL: Who is the letter to?
Sen. GRAHAM: I think it goes to the president. Is that who it was to?
Sen. : (Off mike.)
Sen. GRAHAM: It’s the president.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I will look at it. I don’t recall the letter and I will look at it and give you an answer.
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, all I can say is it was a very big deal at a very important time. And the lack of signature by you runs chills up my spine, because I can’t imagine not signing a letter like that at a time when it really mattered.
And we will continue this conversation. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Graham.
We now will go to Senator Blumenthal.
SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to join, Senator Hagel, in thanking you for your service, thanking your family. And expressing appreciation not only to your — to you for your service in uniform, but also afterward to our veterans, which people may not appreciate as much as they do your military service, but I think is every bit as important to our nation.
And I just want to say about that letter: I wasn’t here when the letter was circulated; I would have signed it. But I would certainly join in urging that you reconsider and commit to the statement of support in the letter for the support of Israel. And if it’s appropriate now and applicable to today’s events, I hope you will consider expressing your support for it.
You know, I noted in your opening statement that no single quote and no single vote define you in the entirety. And perhaps not as a whole, but votes and quotes do matter, and I think that the questions about what you’ve said and what you’ve done in the past are entirely appropriate, and I think also reconsidering or your views evolving is also appropriate.
And I’m going to be submitting questions on some of the topics that you’ve heard; you and I have discussed some of these questions.
I might say your private meetings with members of this body have been very productive and effective as you’ve seen in some of the comments that have been expressed here. And so the more we hear from you, I think, the better you do on many of these issues.
I want to begin by talking about one issue that concerns our veterans, particularly our Vietnam veterans. Many Vietnam veterans in Connecticut and around the country received less-than-honorable discharge as a result of conduct that was a direct consequence of PSD at a time when PSD was not a term, not diagnosed, not treated. But they have to live with the consequences of a less-than-honorable discharge, they have to live with fewer benefits often.
And I would like a commitment from you that the Department of Defense will reevaluate and revisit perhaps some of those individual cases as well as its general policies, to take account of the fact that we now know that many of those veterans during the Vietnam era suffered from PSD or related kinds of injuries.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, you have my commitment to do everything I can about that. I understand the issue pretty well, been working on this issue long before I actually ever got to the Senate. So I will, thank you.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. And I would like the same kind of commitment that you’ve expressed very persuasively on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on the issue of sexual assaults. This issue bedevils the military. I don’t know whether you’ve seen an excellent documentary called “The Invisible War.”
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: And I know you’re familiar with this issue. I commend you for what you’ve said to me privately. And I would ask that your commitment, not only to the prosecution and holding accountable people who are involved in this criminal conduct, but also to the victims so that they receive the kind of services that in the civilian world many of them do through victims advocates in the courts and similar kinds of roles played.
So both to prosecution, effective, vigorous, zealous, but also to protection of the victims, can you commit to that?
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely, I’ll commit to that.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: On the strategic issues, I wonder if I could talk to you for a moment about submarines, which you and I discussed privately, briefly. The Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, the president have all committed to an Ohio-class replacement program that consists of a fleet of 12, starting no later than 2031. Global Zero settled on a lower number, 10. I strongly believe that the cost will increase, the cost per submarine, and that we will be at severe risk for reasons that you may well understand, although you can’t really discuss them in detail here because I think they may be classified.
I would like a commitment that you are committed as well to a fleet of 12 Ohio-class replacement submarines.
Mr. HAGEL: On that issue, I would want to talk with our chief, our chief of Naval operations, to get a better understanding of our budget. I can tell you this, I am committed completely to modernizing our Navy and everything it includes and will require.
I’ll give you that commitment.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: I’m sure you know that the Ohio-class replacement program is really the cornerstone of our nuclear deterrence —
Mr. HAGEL: I do.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: — vital to our national security, but it requires clear leadership and support from the next secretary of defense. So I hope you will perhaps come back to us on that issue.
Mr. HAGEL: I will. You and I will be discussing this, I’m sure, many times if I’m confirmed, so thank you.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
Going to the Virginia-class submarines, the next multi-year purchase, known as block IV, envisions 10 submarines. There’s a — there’s a threat that it could be reduced to nine for reasons related to both cost and national security. I think that number should be 10. The intent and spirit of the last defense authorization act was that it should be 10. And I would like to ask you similarly for your commitment that there will be two submarines for 2014 and that the program continues to be viable at the level of 10.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, I will commit to what we have committed to carry out what we need to fund and develop and build in order to maintain the kind of modern Navy we’re going to require. That — those submarines, as you note, are cornerstones to that security.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: They are absolutely vital cornerstones, essential building blocks to our national security as we move to the Pacific/Asia theater and seek to advance our interests there. They have the intelligence and reconnaissance and surveillance capability as well as, as you well know, counterterrorism importance, so I hope that that effort will continue. And I appreciate your commitment.
Let me just finish with a question that I think goes back to the contracting area, where you were asked questions before. Senator Ayotte and I, in a trip led by Senator McCain, recently visited Afghanistan and were briefed — and I’m going to try to make this question brief — about the continuing corruption in the Afghanistan government — deeply troubling and even shocking.
But equally so is the waste of American taxpayer dollars in part because of the procedural roadblocks to enforcement of Section 841. I’m not going to quiz you on 841, so you can take a deep breath there. But 841 is designed to protect American tax dollars from corrupt contracts that in fact go to benefit the enemy. And we are working revisions that will make more effective the procedures for terminating those contracts, getting back American dollars, extending those protections to non-defense dollars. And I hope that we can have your commitment as well to work with us on that area.
Mr. HAGEL: You have my commitment, and I will enthusiastically work with you on this area.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. BLUMENTHAL: I appreciate your frank and forthright answers. And I don’t know whether I’ll be here for the second round of questioning, but I want to express my sincere gratitude to you for your willingness to serve and your patience and forthrightness in answering all our questions.
Sen. : (Off mike.)
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Blumenthal.
SENATOR ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Thank you, Chairman. And Senator Hagel, thank you for being here today. Thank you for your service to the country in so many ways and your willingness to serve again. It’s — to see your wife and your brothers there behind you is an indication of the family commitment as well as your personal commitment.
You know, there’s several things that I may get to in a second round on Iran and sanctions. I was very involved in that unilateral sanctions effort when I was in the House. We drafted some of that legislation in my office when I was in the House. Our relationship with Israel is of great concern to me, and it’s a priority to our efforts in the Middle East. And I think that is largely exhausted in this first round, at least from my point of view. I may want to come back to some of it later.
I want to talk a little bit about the ongoing structure of the force. The Wall Street Journal in an editorial today said that the current American military was the smallest, least modern and least battle-ready in recent memory. And I — and I don’t think that means we’re not maybe more modern than anybody else in the world or more battle-ready than anybody else in the world.
But I think that’s a recognition that our investment and the way we’ve used those resources has gotten them in a position where we may be — we need to be more focused on rebuilding than we do building down.
Senator, Secretary Panetta has been very forthcoming in his comments about the sort of across-the-board cutting approach of sequestration. What do we do to get our worn-out equipment and our worn-out personnel in a better position a year from now than they are right now? So your brief, strategic view of that because I don’t have very much time here.
Mr. HAGEL: Yeah. Senator, you’ve just identified one of the priorities of the next few years at the Department of Defense: resetting equipment and essentially reshaping our force structure, but also renewing our force structure. The fact is we’ve been at war for 12 years. Every senator here knows, and you’ve got constituents, that we keep sending these kids back and back and back to two wars.
Well, of course there’s going to be a consequence. Something is going to break down, not only your equipment but your manpower, and you can’t keep doing that. So that is going to be an overall challenge, Senator, that is going to take as much of my time if I’m confirmed as anything, as it will our chiefs. Our chiefs know this better than anyone, as we structure and rebalance and renew and re- outfit.
We’ve got, I believe, a force structure that’s as capable as ever. I mean, I don’t accept that our force structure is somehow behind or not modern or not capable. I don’t think that’s true.
Sen. BLUNT: I think the point that the editorial was making was not that we were behind, but we are not quite as fore on the cutting edge as we may have been. And I would hope you and I would both want to see us get there.
Mr. HAGEL: Yeah.
Sen. BLUNT: Let me ask a question about that. Secretary Gates said recently that one of his big concerns was that we repeat the mistakes of what I think he referred to as a “procurement holiday” that we took in the ’70s and then to some extent again in the ’90s. And we spent a lot of time in the 10 years after that trying to get built back up to where we’d hoped to be. How, in these discussions of cutting, do we keep the lines open, do we keep our effort ongoing?
And one of the things that I know quite a bit about is the F-18 line because it’s in St. Louis, Missouri where Boeing military is. And I do know that if you ever close that line down — so we’re always talking about, well, what other country needs some version of this and how do we keep our capacity at a time when there’s the will of — this talk about cutting, and not just cutting but sort of cutting everything a little bit, which means that some of the things that get cut a little bit I think disappear because they can’t survive if they’re only partly there.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, you have just again identified one of the great challenges that lies ahead, and that is maintaining our industrial base. You use the F-18 and —
Sen. BLUNT: And there are lots of other lines. That just happens to be the one I’ve been on the most times.
Mr. HAGEL: I understand, but that’s a good example of what we’re going to have to continue to keep strong. But the reality is, as you say — because we know what we’ve got to deal with, what our budgets are as a result of the Budget Act of 2011. What we don’t know brings us back to the uncertainty of sequestration, and some of the examples you’re using are good examples of areas that will and can be — could be cut arbitrarily in order to fulfill budget requirements. So I think what you have just noted again is going to be a huge part of keeping our technological superiority, our edge.
Senator Blumenthal mentioned submarines. I mean, that’s another component of this. All of the superior technical edge this country has possessed since World War II has kept us, along with other things and for other reasons, the strongest military power in the history of man. That must be maintained. Threats change. Cyber is a good example.
Sen. BLUNT: Right.
Mr. HAGEL: I mean, 10 years ago, nobody had any idea what we were talking about with cyber, even five years ago.
We’ve got to adjust to that challenge, that reality. But the core base, though, Senator, is exactly right, and we’ve got to protect that.
Sen. BLUNT: Well, we do. And you know, we’ve made efforts with our allies and friends to give them some other version of equipment we had, maybe not quite as good as we have, but something that keeps our defense procurement lines in place so that when we do need them they’re still there, and that’s critically important.
Before you were designated secretary of defense, as the potential nominee for this job, in talking about sequestration, you made a comment about there’s lots of bloat. I’m sure you’ve talked about this comment quite a bit and are very familiar with it — (chuckles) — more than you were before you made is probably.
In the Pentagon, what do you have in mind there? What can — what is being done at the Pentagon that could maybe better be done somewhere else or is being duplicated somewhere else? I think in some — maybe the follow up of that I saw, you mentioned things that should be in the State Department have gotten over to the Pentagon. Give me some — are there examples of that that we can work on and you’ll want to lead on?
Mr. HAGEL: Two things. First, that comment came in a large, extended interview about budgets, about everything. And it was — that interview was done in 2011 prior to the Budget Control Act, just to get the time frame right on that. I never supported sequestration, by the way.
Now, to your question about what we could do. Well, obviously, much of the conversation here in the last few hours has been about acquisition, about waste, fraud and abuse, billions of dollars. Why aren’t we auditing these programs? Where is the accountability? That’s certainly an area that we’re going to have to take a look at.
My reference to State Department programs, some of the general areas, and I mentioned this morning, where we have pushed down on the military the last 12 years to do things that usually are done out of the State Department, aid-type programs and exchange programs, helping civilian-type programs in areas, that was all given to the — not all, but a great deal of it was given to the military at the time we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So the military has taken on a tremendous volume of assignments and funding that goes with that. That needs to be sorted through, I think. And those are areas where I think we —
Sen. BLUNT: And one of your commitments will be to help us sort through that?
Mr. HAGEL: It has to be, Senator. It has to be.
Sen. BLUNT: Well, I’m out of time, Senator. I will be here for the second round.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Blunt.
SENATOR JOE DONNELLY (D-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Ranking Member. It is an honor to be part of this committee. I look forward to working with my colleagues, and I’m proud to serve the people of Indiana.
We are the heartland of America. And Senator Hagel, we have over 14,000 members of the National Guard. In our state, we have the fourth-largest contingent of National Guard members in the entire country. And I want to thank you for your service to the country, you along with all Vietnam veterans and other veterans, for what you have done for our nation.
And I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me. We had an extensive discussion, and your understanding of the complex challenges we face in the Middle East, and the importance of our alliance with Israel, it is a special and historic relationship. I believe it is a special and historic relationship; the people of my state believe that as well.
And I think it was important for you to let everyone know that there can be no nuclear Iran, that there are lines that cannot be crossed, and we will stand up and defend our friends and the entire world in that area.
When we were together, I mentioned to you about my visit to Crane Naval Warfare Systems in Indiana. And what they do is they work to create the technologies to control the spectrum; in effect, try to win the battlefield before the battle ever starts on the ground.
And so we were wondering, what can be done, in this time of challenging budgets, to ensure that in the area of technology, in the area of spectrum, we can maintain our budget so that, as I said, before the war is ever started on the ground we have won it on the spectrum level? And how critical is that in terms of your planning in the Department of Defense?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, Senator, I think that focus is on as much the core challenge that the Pentagon has in front of it as any one thing. This committee is going to be particularly important to help the leaders of the Pentagon sort through that because, as evidenced in the whole series of questions that have been asked today — Senator Blunt’s most recent questions — this is a time of priorities.
Budgets drive that, but missions should always drive everything. And what are going to be our missions in the Defense Department over the next few years? How are we going to resource those missions? What are the priorities going to be? And it’s the entire universe of what the responsibilities are and how do we carry those responsibilities out to secure this nation?
So your general questions and most of the questions asked here today have been about this. Until I would get over to the Pentagon, if I’m confirmed, and understand more the specifics and work with the chiefs and get a better grasp of exactly what we’ve got, I won’t be in a position to be able to say this or this or we’ll do this or we won’t. Obviously that’s why I say this committee — the authorizing committees are going to be particularly important.
Sen. DONNELLY: And my next question probably ties into that as well, which is, as I mentioned we have over 14,000 members of the Guard in our state, Army Reserves, and they have done tour after tour after tour in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And as we wind down, I think it is critical to make sure that we have a strategic plan for the Guard in the future so that the Guard we have today, equipment-wise — it’s struggling on equipment. We have to upgrade not only our vehicles but in other areas as well. And so I guess the question is, how do you view the mission of the Guard in the years ahead?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, as you know, during our conversation and a couple of questions I’ve had here today on the Guard, I’ve said I am committed to a strong National Guard. It is an essential part of our force structure going into the future. And again, I think it was proven quite clearly and effectively the last 12 years.
That will be maintained. And again, I think further evidence of that — putting a chief of the National Guard into the Joint Chiefs. So you have my commitment that I will be continually focused on that integration and the upgrading in every way.
Sen. DONNELLY: I’ve had the privilege of working with General Shinseki in recent years on veterans issues, but I think back to when he testified regarding Iraq and talked about how many troops he thought were needed and all the repercussions that came out of that, not only for the general but in so many ways. I think it’s critical that the generals and the people in the Pentagon provide you with the most unvarnished information possible. They tell you exactly what they think; you tell them exactly what you think; and that nobody at any time has their career affected for telling you the truth. I want to make sure that that’s the way that you’re approaching this as well.
Mr. HAGEL: That is the way I would approach it. I value that. There is no other way to assure that we are getting the best, the most honest advice from our most capable leaders than to say it like that.
The General Shinseki episode was a very unfortunate episode in this country — what happened to him for telling the truth. I will assure this committee that if I am secretary of Defense that kind of thing will never happen for a general officer, a senior commander to be handled and treated that way when he told the truth to the Congress of the United States.
Sen. DONNELLY: And I will say — and I know you know this — the job he has done for our veterans as the VA secretary has been extraordinary.
Another area in regards to not only our veterans, which we’re challenged with right now, but also on active duty, is the suicide rate, that it has — it has been heartbreaking. In 2012 we lost more active duty members to suicide than we did in fighting in Afghanistan.
I know General Chiarelli has at this point basically dedicated his life to trying to solve this problem. I want to make sure that the Defense Department is going to lean all in to try to fix this and provide the care and help and answers so that that number goes to zero in the years ahead.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, you have my complete commitment on this issue.
Sen. DONNELLY: It is something that our veterans then face as well. It’s also a transition issue, that as much as you can work with the VA as our active duties transition out and on National Guard when they go home, that they have somebody to talk to, somebody to tell how they feel, and somebody who understands that they’re going through, because if we can help with that — they have borne the burden of battle and we owe them — we owe them everything.
Another question I wanted to ask you about is Pakistan. And as we know, the incredible challenges we have in Afghanistan, so much of it is caused by Pakistan. We spent about — or provided about $2.5 billion in aid. Do you think those were dollars well spent?
Mr. HAGEL: Pakistan is a complicated relationship. It is a nuclear power. They cooperate with the United States on some things. We have difficulties with them on others.
As to your question on investment in Pakistan, we condition that assistance, as you know. We must continue to condition that assistance. I think Pakistan is too dangerous and that area of the world is so clearly in the national security interests of this country that we just can’t walk away from it and not deal with them. It is complicated, it is imperfect, but this is where all the levers of influence and relationships and diplomacy and economics and power come into play. How we wisely use all of those resources is going to determine some of the outcomes.
We have to be honest as well. We are dealing with factors there that we don’t agree with, that we have difficulties with. But again, we have to continue to work at it and I believe that we will and we should.
Sen. DONNELLY: Senator, thank you very much.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Donnelly. Senator Cruz.
SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, I want to thank you for being here, and I want to begin by thanking you for your honorable service to our nation, for your personal sacrifice that you have put in to standing and fighting for this country.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. CRUZ: I would like to begin by addressing a question of process. In your prepared statements today you describe that you have given hundreds of speeches and interviews.
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. CRUZ: This committee asked you in this process to submit those speeches in the last five years, and in response to that you handed over a total of four speeches. In my view that submission was facially insufficient for this committee to assess you record. Indeed, your financial disclosure revealed you had received paid honoraria in the past year for 12 speeches and yet you did not even hand over those speeches for which you were paid substantial sums of money.
Beyond that, two days ago six senators, including Ranking Member Inhofe, sent you a letter asking for financial disclosures. You have not chosen to respond to that letter. That letter in particular asked about the private organizations that have paid you over the past five years and the degree to which any of those funding sources have come from foreign countries, foreign nationals, foreign sovereign debt funds. You chose not to respond to that letter.
In my view, unless and until you respond to the requests of members of this committee, this committee does not have a proper record on which to assess your confirmation, and I think we need full disclosure and adequate time to assess that.
Now, I’d like to ask initially a point of clarification. With respect to the International Criminal Court, do you believe the United States should become a party to the International Criminal Court?
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, may I quickly respond to your first comment?
Sen. CRUZ: I’d like you to answer my question. My time is limited.
Mr. HAGEL: That question is one that I am most likely not going to be dealing with as secretary of defense.
Sen. CRUZ: It’s a simple question. Do you think we should be a member of the International Criminal Court?
Mr. HAGEL: I’m —
Sen. CRUZ: Yes or no? I’m asking for your judgment on whether the United States should be a party.
Mr. HAGEL: I support where the United States is today.
Sen. CRUZ: So we are not a party today. You think we should not be a party.
Mr. HAGEL: That’s fair.
Sen. CRUZ: Is that a correct statement of your position?
Mr. HAGEL: Yeah.
Sen. CRUZ: OK. Thank you.
I’d like to draw your attention to an interview you did in 2009 with Al-Jazeera. And with the chairman’s indulgence, if we can play an excerpt of that interview.
RAZ KAHN: This is Marty (ph) from London. Go ahead with your question.
Q: Hello, sir. Good evening. It’s a very good proposition. I believe, very strongly I believe that current leadership around the world that there is a moral failure going on. And they have a moral capacity to talk and to do what they talk. For example, if you look at Palestine, there is no — there is a war crime and they are not dealing with it, but in Sudan they are dealing with it. And they are really biased justice. And if you look at Sri Lanka, the — (inaudible) — being killed, there is the genocide of war going on in Sri Lanka, nothing being done. So there is a —
Mr. KAHN: So Marty (ph), what is your question with regards to the issue we’re talking about — the reduction of nuclear weapons?
Q: My question is that leaders — there is a total moral failure. Unless we pulling these leaders to a moral standard, nothing can be done. That’s my question. But you think about.
Mr. KAHN: OK. Thank you. Let me put that to the senator.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think you’re exactly right. And I said in my opening statement that that leadership is critical, because we know that in life, nothing is ever accomplished without leadership.
Sen. CRUZ: Now, in that excerpt, Senator Hagel, the caller suggests that the nation of Israel has committed war crimes. And your response to that was not to dispute that characterization, but indeed, to describe what he said as, quote, “Well, I think that’s exactly right.”
I’d like to ask you: Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?
Mr. HAGEL: No, but — no, I do not, Senator. I’d want to look at the full context of the interview, but to answer your question, no.
Sen. CRUZ: I mean, the context of that question — we played the entirety of it. And I wanted to give you that context so you could hear the question and you can hear your response.
I would suggest that a suggestion that Israel has committed war crimes is particularly offensive, given that the Jewish people suffered under the most horrific war crimes in the Holocaust. And I would also suggest that for the secretary of defense — or a perspective secretary of defense — not to take issue with that claim is highly troubling.
I’d also point out in 2006, your characterization of the nation of Israel’s action. And that was in a speech on the floor of the Senate you referred to Israel’s military campaign against the terrorist group Hezbollah as a, quote, “sickening slaughter.”
Now, I would suggest the characterizations — do you think it’s right that Israel was committing a, quote, “sickening slaughter,” as you said on the floor of the Senate?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I think, again, I would want to read all of it, what I said. First, I’ve said many, many times, Senator, every nation has a right to defend itself. And —
Sen. CRUZ: Do you think a sickening slaughter would constitute a war crime?
Mr. HAGEL: No. It depends on — they were attacked. It depends on many factors. If Israel was defending itself, there was slaughter going on, on both sides.
Sen. CRUZ: Does one typically characterize defending yourself against terrorism as a sickening slaughter?
Mr. HAGEL: No. But again, Senator, I’d want to look at everything, because —
Sen. CRUZ: OK. Well, let’s look at another excerpt from the same interview. If we could play the next excerpt.
RAZ KAHN: We’ve got an email from Wendy Day. She writes to us from Georgia here in the United States.
And she writes: Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the United States is that of the world’s bully? Don’t we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms, nuclear or otherwise?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, her observation is a good one, and it’s relevant. Yes, to her question.
(End video segment.)
Sen. CRUZ: Senator Hagel, do you think it’s appropriate for the chief civilian leader of the U.S. military forces to agree with the statement that both the perception, quote, “and the reality” is that the United States is, quote, “the world’s bully”?
Mr. HAGEL: I didn’t hear her say that, by the way, of the United States. And I think my comment was, it’s a relevant and good observation. I don’t think I said that I agree with it.
Sen. CRUZ: With respect, I think the record speaks for itself. It was in writing that she said the U.S. is the world’s bully, that it is the reality. And your response — you did say you agree with it. You said her observation is a good one, it’s relevant; yes to her question. You explicitly agreed with the characterization of the United States as the world’s bully. And I would suggest that is not a characterization — I think the United States has spilled more blood, more treasure standing for freedom, liberating people across the world. And to go on Al Jazeera, a foreign network, broadcasting propaganda to nations that are hostile to us, and to explicitly agree with the characterization of the United States as the world’s bully, I would suggest is not the conduct one would expect of a secretary of defense.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, she said that was an observation.
Sen. CRUZ: I will point out that her quote was, the perception and the reality.
And with that, my time is expired. I look forward to a second round of questioning.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you.
Now, what we’re going to do, given the fact that some of those tapes there are — they need to be transcribed to be made part of the record so that people can judge exactly what was said and what was asked. I heard that first question, by the way, as a response to a need for moral leadership. I didn’t hear it the way that Senator Cruz did. But in any event, it’s important that the words be transcribed so that they can be made part of the record.
There’s a rather unusual thing — I told Senator Cruz that I preferred that we have a transcript and that you be asked questions from a transcript but that I didn’t want to stop him from offering the tape of it. And he went ahead and did it. And in any event, the, I think, fair thing now is that the transcript of each of those segments be made part of the record and we — that we give also Senator Hagel and opportunity, should he want, either on this question — or, by the way, on other questions — an opportunity to answer for the record in any way he might proceed as though he were answering questions for the record.
Sen. CRUZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’ll be happy to provide a transcript. And we’ll also be making public a link both to these excerpts and to the entire transcript so that anyone who wants can view it in its entirety and assess it in context.
Sen. LEVIN: That’d be very helpful. Thank you, Senator Cruz.
SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Inhofe. I join my colleagues in welcoming you, Senator Hagel.
We live in a complex world, and any secretary of defense should ask tough questions, maybe not particularly politically popular questions. And I see you, Senator Hagel, as that kind of person based on your service to our country, your conduct and responses to the questions asked of you today and the conversation that you and I had.
Turning to your statement this morning, you talked about looking at our future threats and challenges and why the Department of Defense is rebalancing its resources toward the Asia-Pacific region. And of course this kind of rebalance is critically important to Hawaii (in ?) our forward position in the Pacific.
Would you expand as to why and what particular economic or national security factors come in to play as we rebalance to the Asia- Pacific region.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, you know better than most your region and its importance and why it will continue to be important to the world, but certainly to the United States.
As I noted in my opening statement, and you know, we have always been a Pacific power. We have been a Pacific power because we have clear economic interests there. We have diplomatic security interests there. We have strong allies there; I mentioned some of them in my opening statement.
When we look at the growth of economies, we look at trade growth, we look at population growth, the rise of China, but not just China, but that entire Asia Pacific region, we need to stay relevant to opportunities as well as challenges in all areas, but in particular the areas that we see as emerging as to the largest, most significant economic security issues and challenges and opportunities.
It’s appropriate that any nation rebalance assets. You have to be relevant to the times, to the shifts, the changes. Our world today is totally different than it was 12 years ago. Our force structure is being refit, and we are looking at a far more agile, flexible force structure as our economies are becoming more agile and flexible.
So for all those reasons and more, that’s why we are doing what I think is exactly the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean, as I said in my opening statement, that we are abandoning anybody or any part of the world. We can’t.
Sen. HIRONO: Senator, and as we live in times of budget constraints, will you commit to keeping me and this committee informed as you develop the strategies and contemplate force posture adjustments that go along with this kind of re-balancing?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, and I look forward to it.
Sen. HIRONO: I am very heartened by your perspective — turning to another question — that you always ask the question, is the policy working worthy of the men and women that we send into battle and possibly to their deaths? So I am very heartened by that kind of perspective from someone who served our country.
What will be your top priorities as you look to care for the men and women in uniform and their families?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, as I said, a, in my opening statement, the welfare, the safety, the success of our men and women in uniform is my top priority, has been and will continue to be, and their families.
Sen. HIRONO: Do you have any specific programmatic ways that you will reflect that?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first to implement the law. We have a number of new laws, policies that are in the process of being implemented. We’ve spoken about some here today. And I will assure, if confirmed, that we do that.
And as I said in my opening statement, we will assure that every military man and woman and their families are given exactly the same opportunities and rights as each other and all members of the armed forces.
Sen. HIRONO: I also take to heart your belief in the importance of the coordination and the work between the Department of Defense and the VA. And I understand that you have a strong relationship with Secretary Shinseki. So with your experience as a veteran and having been a senior leader in the Veterans Administration, what will be your primary challenges and goals as you look to collaborate with Secretary Shinseki and the VA?
Mr. HAGEL: It will be the same that Secretary Panetta and before him Secretary Gates initiated in closer collaboration between the two agencies, and that means the integration of our systems. As our men and women transition out from active duty into civilian life or retired life and are going to require the assistance of some veterans assistance programs, a closer integration.
We know that the backlogs now are still far, far too long to get evaluations of whether it’s PTSD or whatever the health issue is.
So I think continuing the work with Secretary Shinseki, as Secretary Panetta engaged it, but strengthening that integration of those systems of leadership, of our people understanding each other better, and maximizing the resources that each agency has and making those resources more value-added and count more.
Sen. HIRONO: Well, I had an opportunity to meet with Secretary Shinseki recently and those kinds of collaborative efforts are not happening as expeditiously as we would like. So I certainly hope that you will have a renewed sense of urgency about the outcomes of these collaborative efforts because, of course, the bottom line is it is to help our men and women who are transitioning out of uniform into civilian life. So I hope that we have that kind of commitment, strong commitment from you for outcomes.
Mr. HAGEL: You have my strong commitment.
Sen. HIRONO: The Department of Defense is the U.S.’s largest consumer of energy, and we talked about the briefly when you came to see me. And it’s clear that the military will benefit greatly from cheaper, more stable fuel costs over the long term. And promising work is being done in this are to commercialize alternative fuels that can be produced abundantly in the United States. And of course this kind of collaboration is very important for Hawaii as being the most oil-dependent state in the entire country. So if confirmed, will you continue to emphasize and prioritize research, development and, where possible, deployment of renewable fuels, as well as enhanced energy efficiency efforts to reduce the Department of Defense’s energy costs over the long term?
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, as you have noted, the Department of Defense is the largest user of certainly liquid fuels. But I think our energy budget — I don’t know the exact number but it’s probably around $18 billion a year. Anything we can do to make any aspect of securing our country more cost-effective, we need to look at, and I would make that a high priority if I’m confirmed and go to the Defense Department, to see if we could — how we do that, how we can continue to do that, because in the end, for all the reasons you know, it’s just clearly in the interest of our country, our resources and our people.
Sen. HIRONO: Certainly, continuing to fund R&D efforts in these areas will accrue to us in the long term in terms of huge, huge cost savings for DOD.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. HIRONO: Thank you. My time is up.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Hirono.
Now, here’s the situation we have. This first vote is a 10- minute vote apparently, and all the subsequent votes are 10 minutes. So Senator Lee, I’m happy to call upon you now, but you’d have to kind of keep track of this yourself and have your staff keep track of it if you want to take the risk. There may be some risk if you took your full eight minutes. I’d be happy to recess now instead of after your questions. We’re going to recess for the five votes. It will be about an hour.
Would you like to start now and then take a chance that you might not finish or would you rather start at the beginning, after an hour recess?
SENATOR MIKE LEE (R-UT): Thank you for that offer, Mr. Chairman. I’d better not risk the possibility of missing a vote, so I’d prefer that you recess now.
Sen. LEVIN: We are now going to recess for about an hour. But I want you all to follow this. At the last vote — and it may not be the fifth vote — there may be four votes; we don’t know. It’s up to five votes. The final vote, though, we know will be called final passage of the debt limit bill. We will start — we will begin about five minutes after the beginning of that vote.
We’ll stand in recess.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): (Sounds gavel.) OK. The committee will come back to order. And — Senator Lee.
SENATOR MIKE LEE (R-UT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Senator Hagel, for joining us today and for answering the questions that have been asked to you so far.
I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about — about Israel. Israel is, I believe, America’s most important ally, certainly in the Middle East and in many respects in the entire world. A lot of people in this body are concerned, quite appropriately, about making sure that that alliance remains strong, about making sure that our interests as Americans are protected abroad. And a lot of us feel like one of the best ways of protecting American national security is through that alliance in the Middle East.
On April 12th, 2002, there was a Palestinian terrorist who detonated a bomb in downtown Jerusalem, killing six Israelis and wounding, I believe, about a hundred others. On that day, while you were still serving in the U.S. Senate, you gave a speech on the Senate floor. You made a couple of comments that I’d like to discuss with you and ask you a little bit about.
In one segment of the speech, you said: We understand Israel’s right to defend ourself — itself. We’re committed to that. We’ve helped Israel defend that right. We will continue to do so. But it should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people, innocent Palestinian people and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price.
Some who have read that have reacted with concern that this may be indicative of a feeling on your part that there might be some moral equivalency between, on the one hand, Israel’s exercise of its right to defend itself and, on the other hand, Palestinian terrorism. Do you believe that there is a moral equivalency between these two things?
CHARLES HAGEL: No, absolutely not, Senator.
Sen. LEE: Do you understand how others might read this statement in such a way that could leave them with that impression?
Mr. HAGEL: I do.
Sen. LEE: And you — how do you respond to it? In other words, do Palestinians — let’s say those Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism, perhaps in retaliation against Israel for Israel defending itself, do they have a legitimate gripe?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances. And —
Sen. LEE: But is their grievance legitimate?
Mr. HAGEL: The Palestinians?
Sen. LEE: Yeah, the Palestinians who decide to strap a bomb onto themselves and detonate it or otherwise engage in acts of terror. Do they have a legitimate grievance that they’re expressing?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, they have grievances. A lot of people have grievances, but —
Sen. LEE: Are those grievances legitimate?
Mr. HAGEL: — but not a justification for terrorism and killing innocent people. Never.
Sen. LEE: Are they on par with the grievances that innocent Israelis have when they become the victims of violent acts?
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t think you can judge, whether it’s Israelis or Palestinians or anybody in the world, in separating innocent victims of terrorism.
Sen. LEE: Well, I think you can in some circumstances, can’t you? I mean —
Mr. HAGEL: Not victims.
Sen. LEE: For heaven’s sakes, though — OK, maybe not victims, but can’t you, and indeed, must you not judge when it comes to one group of people who may at least be willing to recognize the other group of people’s right to exist?
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely. In fact, I’m clearly on the record on that point, on — in fact, in 2006 there was the anti-Palestinian terrorist act that I voted for, and there were a number of other resolutions, acts, votes, speeches I’ve made. In my book I have said unequivocally Hezbollah, Hamas, specifically, they must renounce terrorism, and first they must accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland, respect the borders, protect the borders. Absolutely I made that very clear.
Sen. LEE: OK.
Now, later on in the same speech you asked a question. You asked — you referred to the fact to — that we really need to develop peace in the Middle East. And you asked the question, who guarantees this peace? You then continue by asking another question: If, in fact, we expect Israel to pull back to their pre-1967 borders, who guarantees that peace?
Does this, Senator Hagel, reflect sentiment on your part that that is a legitimate way of solving the peace process, bringing about peace in Israel — in the Middle East, is by asking Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders?
Mr. HAGEL: No, not at all. What I said was, as you just quoted me, who guarantees the security of Israel’s borders? I mean, Israel’s borders must be secure. That’s part of the fundamentals of the Quartet Principles of 2006. In fact, the U.N. resolutions, 242 and 337, other resolutions — that’s paramount, the guarantee of the security of Israel and its borders.
Sen. LEE: I understand that part of the question related to how we bring about that peace, and I want to get back to that in a minute. But another part of the question started from the premise that Israel would be withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders. Do you view that as a tenable solution? Do you believe such borders are militarily defensible?
Mr. HAGEL: I think that’s all negotiable. I mean, the Quartet Principles of — or 2006, which President Bush laid down, on a two- state solution — all those issues have to be resolved, land for peace, trading land. All those issues are final status issues. They’re absolutely key to the future of Israel, or before Israel can agree to anything.
Sen. LEE: So you’re saying that you might describe a resolution of this crisis involving withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders as perhaps one among several tenable solutions?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, it’s part of what’s been talked about and defined in, as I said, the 2006 Quartet Principles and U.N. resolutions that that is part of a final status set of issues that have to be resolved. The United States — no other country can impose that on Israel. That is a negotiable issue, but it’s been out there. And that remains to be dealt with in negotiations.
Sen. LEE: Is it one that you think the United States should encourage?
Mr. HAGEL: I would encourage peace and a secure, safe Israel. That’s what I think most of us would want to see.
Sen. LEE: OK. Now, in 2009 you made a statement suggesting that U.S. ground troops — U.S. ground troops should be sent to that part of the world and installed as U.N. peacekeepers in a, quote, “nonmilitarized Palestinian state,” close quote. Is this something you stand behind today? Is this an approach that you think is appropriate?
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, I don’t have the facts behind me — in front of me. But I don’t think that that was a recommendation I was making. If I recall my comments — and you may be able to give me exactly the comments — were in the context of how do you secure Israel’s border, who secures Israel’s border. For example, General Brent Scowcroft has suggested at times maybe this is a role — a peacekeeping role for NATO. That was what that was all about.
Sen. LEE: OK, Senator, my time’s expired. I need to ask you one more question. I understand that you have made a statement indicating that there is no justification for Palestinian suicide bombers but that there is also no justification for Israel to, quote, “keep Palestinians caged up like animals,” close quote. Did you say that, and if so, do you stand by that statement today?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I said it. And I don’t remember the context or when I said it. But if I —
Sen. LEE: Do you believe today that Israel keeps Palestinians caged up like animals?
Mr. HAGEL: No, if I had an opportunity to edit that, like many things I’ve said, I would — I would like to go back and change the words and the meaning. No, it was, I think, in a larger context. I’ve said many, many things over many years. It was a larger context of the frustration in what’s happening, which is not in Israel’s interest, to find ways that we can help bring peace and security to Israel. If I — if I had a chance to go back and edit it, I would. I regret that I used those words.
Sen. LEE: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Lee.
SENATOR TIMOTHY KAINE (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Ranking Member.
Welcome, Senator Hagel.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. KAINE: It was good to see you with my dear friend Senator Warner, decorated Navy and Marine veteran from World War II and the Korean War, secretary of the Navy, longtime member of this committee. You couldn’t have a better ally than Senator Warner, and it was good to see him here.
He exemplifies — and forgive my Virginia-centrism for a minute — he exemplifies something that’s very important about our commonwealth. Our map is a map of the military history of this country: Yorktown; Appomattox; the Pentagon, where 9/11 occurred. There’s a ceremony in Arlington tonight for the commissioning of a new amphib, the USS Arlington, that will be commissioned in Norfolk in April.
We care very deeply about these events. One in eight Virginians — one in nine Virginians, excuse me, is a veteran — not one in nine voters, not one in nine adults but birth to death, one in nine is a veteran. When you add in active-duty and Guard and Reserve and DOD civilian and DOD contractors and their families, now you’re talking about probably one in three of us, and we care very, very deeply about all that’s within DOD. And Virginians talk all the time about national security concerns and threats.
And let me be plain, the threat and the concern that Virginians are now talking about more than any other is the inability of Congress to find a way forward on a — on a reasonable budget compromise. That’s what’s in the newspapers; that’s what’s in the headlines.
At the direction of Deputy Secretary Ash Carter, DOD is now cutting expenditures and planning for future cuts, and we have a looming sequester on March 1 and then a CR expiration on March 27. I’m very worried at the macro level about DOD’s ability to pursue and execute appropriate national security objectives in this time of congressional inability to find budget compromise.
The current CR limits flexibility, for example, of the military to appropriately tailor resources to the appropriates ends. Under a CR, the Navy has no flexibility to meet a $3.7 billion O&M shortfall. I’m new here. To me, it seems like funding the military through CR is poor business, poor budgeting, poor governance. I’m worried about its effect upon the morale of all of our men and women in service.
So my first question is a really simple one. Do you agree that we, Congress, must finish, an FY 2013 appropriations process as soon as possible allow DOD to move forward with this year’s funding decision rather than continuing to be bound by an FY 2013 CR?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I do. I think I’ve been very clear on that point all day today, and you have described it accurately.
Sen. KAINE: My second question, related, is about sequestration. To me, again, the new guy, allowing budget sequestration — the cavalier discussions I’ve seen in some newspapers recently by members of Congress about the fact that it’s reality and we probably can’t change it makes absolutely no sense.
I’m kind of curious and interested to see whether there — it might be more sensible to sort of even realign the deadlines, the sequester deadline. We are now — based on a vote we just had on the floor of the Senate, in a budgetary process where there is a strong likelihood that we’ll be able to produce budgets together with the House, why would we be making short-term one-off decisions that are holdovers from a previous Congress that couldn’t get it right? When we are embarking upon a budget process, to my way of thinking, that’s the way you ought to make revenue and spending decisions in accord (with ?) a budget rather than through gimmicks like sequester.
I think we’re going to get out of this budget uncertainty, but when we do, you will have the task, if confirmed, of being the secretary of defense in a resource-constrained environment, and you’re going to have to deal hopefully in a more thoughtful budgetary process with Congress on how to make priorities about spending, and I’d like to have you talk a little bit about how you would approach that administrative task in a resource-constrained world, how you’re going to approach that task of dealing with these fiscal realities.
Mr. HAGEL: First, as I noted this morning in my opening statement, if I am confirmed, I would intend to make this relationship between the secretary of defense and Congress a partnership, much as Secretary Panetta has done. I think it’s critically important for many reasons. Let’s start with the budget.
You authorize, you appropriate. So the federal government is captive to that authorization and appropriation. And each department must work within the budgetary framework of those resources. I’ve said that like all of these big issues, it is a matter of first of all clearly defining the mission in its entirety as to what is the mission of the Department of Defense; then what are our priorities, as they fit into our strategic interest around the world; and then how do you do it, how do you manage it, how do you lead?
That includes working closely with the chiefs.
That includes working with all the leadership within the Department of Defense. It’s about teams. It’s about people. And it’s about building consensus in the Congress as well as within the military.
Each military chief has a responsibility for his or her areas and service, and that’s as it should be. And obviously Goldwater-Nichols integrated our services, which was the right thing. I think most people agree with that. But also the commandant of the Marine Corps and each chief has a responsibility to look out for the interest of their service.
And so the coordination of those efforts and the understanding of the bigger picture are critically important. Those are all different elements, not unlike you as a governor at one time would bring to the job.
Sen. KAINE: Senator, switching gears for a minute, it is still kind of hard to contemplate that if confirmed, you would be the first enlisted person to hold the position of SECDEF, and I want to ask a question about especially our enlisteds — Senator Manchin touched upon it earlier — the unacceptably high rate of unemployment of folks exiting military service. I think officers have a little bit easier time. But when we see an unemployment rate among enlisteds that is higher than the national average, when they sacrificed, when they’ve given, and when they have leadership and technical skills that could benefit a civilian workforce, we know something is wrong.
There have been some pilot projects through the NDAAs in 2012 and 2013 to focus on an issue that matters a lot to me, and we talked about it — how to credential active-duty military while they are in their MOS’s, while they are gaining skills with credentials that mean something in the civilian workforce, so that when they leave, they’re not just an E-5 or a gunny sergeant, which people in the civilian workforce may not understand but they actually have the credentials that the civilian hiring workforce does understand. Are you committed to pushing forward in those pilot programs and expanding them, so that we can get at this unemployment issue?
Mr. HAGEL: Absolutely, and again, I noted that in my opening statement, Senator. I think I have some experience in that area over the years. I’m committed to that. As I said, nothing is more important than our men and women and their families, and that doesn’t mean just throughout their time in our service to our country, but afterward. What this country commits to them, we must fulfill that commitment.
Sen. KAINE: One last comment, Senator Hagel, not a question. As the topics have come up today, when we’ve talked about Iran and the threat of a nuclear Iran, we’ve often talked about it as linked with Israel’s security, which it is. They’ve — they’re Holocaust deniers, and they’ve threatened the security of the state of Israel. But I want to make sure that everybody in this chamber understands it’s not just about the security of Israel. The Iranian nuclear threat is a much bigger one. It is very clear that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, that other nations will start to do the same thing, and that would cut completely counter to, I know, principles that you hold, principles the president holds. It’s not just on Israel’s shoulders to be worried about a nuclear Iran. It is a threat that we all need to worry about.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, thank you. I agree, and I think, just to add one point on that, you all know, of course — and many have been involved in this over the years — the current P-5 plus one engagement, to get all five members of the U.N. Security Council together on this one issue — now we have variations of exactly what should be done, but I think that gives the world some indication of how Russia, China, the United States and essentially all nations of the world view the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Sen. KAINE: Thank you, Senator.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Kaine.
SENATOR DAVID VITTER (R-LA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Senator, for being here.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator.
Sen. VITTER: And thank you very much for your military service.
My single biggest concern, Senator, about the nomination is the dramatic flip-flops between your past statements and record and what you’re saying as a nominee. And there are about key core issues, and we’ve discussed some of those today.
So I wanted to focus on that, and I apologize if I go over some of the things that have come up before. I couldn’t be here for most of the hearing.
In 2006, when Israel was responding to attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon, you called that response a, quote, “sickening slaughter,” close quote, and you accused Israel of, quote, “the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon,” close quote.
What do you say about those quotes today?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, I said them. I have been asked about them. I have said I regret saying that. It was in the larger context of a speech I made about what was going on, the 30-some days of war going on. I also included in that speech the responsibility of Hezbollah, who started the war. So it wasn’t exactly the way you just noted it. The language is exact, what you just said. But it was a larger context.
Yes, I regret that language. But I think the bigger point is, Senator — and I have noted this all morning — my unequivocal support of Israel over the years. There’s been no flip-flop on that. How I’ve voted — I’ve never voted against (sic) anything but Israel’s interests in every vote I cast in the United States Senate. I’ve said it in my book. They’re a special historic ally. We will always support them and defend them. I’ve said it in my speeches. There is no flip-flop on my support of Israel.
Sen. VITTER: Is there a flip-flop on your calling the response to Hezbollah, quote, “the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon,” close quote? And do you stand by that today?
Mr. HAGEL: I just — I just said that I said that. And I said that I regretted saying that. But that’s not the —
Sen. VITTER: So do you stand by those words, or is that a flip- flop?
Mr. HAGEL: No, if I had a chance to edit those words out, I would. I just said I regret them.
Sen. VITTER: That’s what I’m talking about in terms of flip- flop. Let me —
Mr. HAGEL: (Chuckles.) Well, I suppose if I had a chance to edit a lot of things in my life, Senator, I’d probably be fairly busy. But —
Sen. VITTER: Right. Let me move on, because I have a number of these concerns. In 1998 in a Senate hearing, you said that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had, quote, “tilted way too far toward Israel in the Middle East peace process,” close quote. Do you still think that of that peace process in 1998?
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t recall the event. I don’t recall the words. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know the context. You know, again, Senator, I go back for years and years and years on different things I’ve said, but I don’t — I don’t recall that or what the context was, so I don’t know.
Secretary Albright has endorsed me, by the way, to be the next secretary of defense. I work very closely with Secretary Albright, as I did with President Clinton and his administration, in support of Israel.
Sen. VITTER: In general, at that time, under the Clinton administration, do you think that they were going, quote, “way too far toward Israel in the Middle East peace process,” close quote?
Mr. HAGEL: No, I don’t, because I was very supportive of what the president did at the end of his term in December of — January — December 2000, January of 2001. And matter of fact, I recount that episode in my book. When I was in Israel —
Sen. VITTER: OK, just to clarify, that’s the sort of flip-flop I’m talking about, because that’s what you said then, and you — changing your mind now. But —
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, that’s not a flip-flop. I don’t recall everything I’ve said in the last 20 years or 25 years. If I could go back and change some of it, I would. But that still doesn’t discount the support that I’ve always given Israel and continue to give Israel.
Sen. VITTER: Let me go to a third thing is actually what you said today, talking about Iran as a, quote, “legitimate, elected government,” close quote. Do you think the election that had to do with this Iranian government coming to power was free and fair and legitimate?
Mr. HAGEL: I noted that the term “legitimate” was not the term I should have used. I should have used “recognized.” That’s the more appropriate term. And I was referring to the fact that it’s a nation that is a member of the United Nations. It has embassies from all our allies. It is a recognized nation.
Sen. VITTER: What about the word — what about the word “elected”? Because you said “legitimate, elected government.”
Mr. HAGEL: Well, there was an election in Iran.
Sen. VITTER: So my question specifically was you apparently think that was a free and fair and legitimate election?
Mr. HAGEL: That’s not what I said. I said —
Sen. VITTER: Well, I’m asking what you meant, because you said “legitimate, elected government.”
Mr. HAGEL: I just explained I should have said “recognized” instead of “legitimate,” which I did earlier today. There was an election. There will be another presidential election in June of this year for president of Iran. Whether it’s free and fair, I don’t know.
Sen. VITTER: Do you expect it to be free and fair and legitimate?
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t know.
Sen. VITTER: OK. You have no expectations one way or the other about that?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I do know that Iran is not exactly a model democracy, and it has not been.
So I don’t have any expectations for a free, fair election.
Sen. VITTER: OK. In 2008 you wrote that a nuclear Iran might be tolerable because, quote, “sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability as opposed to stateless terrorist groups will often respond with some degree of responsible or at least sane behavior,” close quote. Is that still your hope or expectation about this government of Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: Again, I’m not sure the — where the reference came from or the context, but what I obviously was referring to were different options that people will look at in regard to Iran getting nuclear weapons. I’ve always said that Iran must not get weapons of mass destruction. I’ve always said it’s a sponsor of terrorist — of terrorism. And I’ve always said the military option should remain on the table to assure that Iran does not get nuclear weapons.
Sen. VITTER: Well, again, this quote, you suggest that Iran would maybe or hopefully respond in a responsible or at least sane way. Those were the words. Is that still your expectation or hope?
Mr. HAGEL: That — well, I always have hope that people respond in a sane way. But that doesn’t at all change the facts that it is a dangerous, dangerous country that’s a threat to the United States, Israel and the entire world.
Sen. VITTER: OK. After your nomination, the Iranian government press noted with satisfaction that the, quote, “anti-Israel,” close quote, Hagel — obviously that’s not your quote; that’s theirs — is known for, quote, “his criticism of Washington’s anti-Iran policies,” close quote and that he, quote, “has consistently opposed any plan to launch a military strike against Iran,” close quote. Why do you think they have that impression?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first of all, it’s not an accurate quote. I’ve never opposed military action against Iran.
Sen. VITTER: Let me just clarify. It’s an accurate quote of the Iranian government press. Why do you think they have that impression?
Mr. HAGEL: It’s not an accurate statement about my position.
Sen. VITTER: Right, but why do you think they have that impression?
Mr. HAGEL: As I said in answer to that question earlier, I have enough difficulty understanding American politics, Senator. I surely don’t understand Iranian politics.
Sen. VITTER: OK. Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: But I — but if I might add, I also said that there have been some rather significant Israeli government leaders recently that have said some pretty nice things about me, current Israeli leaders.
Sen. VITTER: OK. Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Vitter. Senator King.
SENATOR ANGUS KING (I-ME): Like all the other inquisitors today, Senator, I want to thank you for your service and particularly for your willingness to put yourself through this process to serve your country once again. It’s one of my life principles never to take a job where I would have to be confirmed by a legislative body. (Laughter.) And you’re doing it.
I also want to comment — I read one commentator that said the fact that this guy is a — is a — was an enlisted man in Vietnam is nice but not really significant. I think it’s very significant. I’m a bit of a student of the Cuban missile crisis, the most dangerous moment this country’s ever experienced, and anybody that studies that period — it’s hard to escape the conclusion that President Kennedy’s service on the frontlines of World War II and Chairman Khrushchev’s service in his army during World War II was a significant influence on their willingness to back away from the nuclear precipice. I think it’s very important to have people with your experience in this — in this position.
Most of the questions — I — probably 90 percent today have been about policy. But the reality is, as I think you would concede, that the policy comes from the president of the United States. You’re certainly going to advise, but that’s where the policy comes from. I’d like to ask your thoughts about management, because you’re about to take on the world’s most cumbersome bureaucracy with a lot of problems and headaches and budgetary challenges. Just share with me some thoughts about how you’re going to approach the management of the Department of Defense.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, thank you. I know you were sitting there during the exchange I had with Senator Kaine about some of this. I would, in answering your question, pick up on a couple of those observations. First — and you too — I know you were a governor, and so you both understand a lot of the pieces of this.
No matter how big an organization is, there are still some fundamentals to leadership and management. Now, as you have noted, the Department of Defense is the largest institution, certainly in this country, maybe the world. How, then, do you try to manage it?
Well, it’s not about me. A secretary of defense, he leads, he advises the president, but it’s really about the people who have the accountability and the responsibility to manage every aspect of our defense apparatus. That includes all the officers. I think there are over 50 presidential appointees in the Department of Defense. You have obviously the military, uniformed military, 1.3 million there. So all of these people are required to manage the department.
I think a fundamental, to me, and I think in answering your question, is accountability. We’ve had some discussions today about audits. All institutions must be accountable. Elected officials are accountable. We’re all accountable. And the emphasis on accountability I don’t think can ever be overstated. You give managers flexibility, you give them resources, but you give them direction and expectations. And they have to be very clear, very direct and very defined, but not to the point where you don’t want their input and their ability to be flexible with their management. I think that’s the — in my opinion, Senator, is the key to anything, but surely it is the key to something as large as the Department of Defense.
A number of questions were asked of me today about specific programs, submarine programs, different areas of technology and acquisitions and our superior technology. And I’ve said I don’t know enough about it. I don’t. There are a lot of things I don’t know about. I, if confirmed, intend to know a lot more than I do. I will have to. But at the same time, I would never think that this, as I said earlier, is about me or I will be running anything. I will be the leader. I’ll be responsible. I’ll be accountable. But I’ve got to rely on the right teams, the right people, bring those people together. And again, it’s accountability and responsibility.
I would stop there, and if that gives you some sense of how I would intend to do this business.
Sen. KING: My theory of leadership is hire good people and take credit for what they do.
Mr. HAGEL: (Laughs.)
Sen. KING: That’s my best advice.
You’re a guy from Nebraska. You were in the Army, so I’m imagining that every morning you don’t get up and think about the Navy. I hope to correct that over the next few years. Particularly of concern to us right now in Maine and in other parts of the country is the multiyear procurement program, which is in jeopardy because of the budget situation. Your feelings about multiyear procurement and maintaining the industrial base, which we just have to do if we’re going to be able to maintain our force.
Mr. HAGEL: Governor, you probably know, and governor Kaine does as well, that there is such a thing as the Nebraska navy. And our governors make these distinguished appointments throughout their career. Our fleet is small but mighty.
Sen. KING (?): (Laughs.)
Mr. HAGEL: But that has been my initial early-on experience with the Navy.
Industrial base. I referenced that in a couple of comments I made earlier today in responding to questions. Absolutely essential to our future that we maintain a strong, growing, credible military industrial base, for all the reasons you understand. Certainly Senator Kaine does, being from Virginia, and other senators here who have in their states these facilities and, more importantly, private companies that represent our industrial base.
How we then prioritize our needs, how we account for and audit contracts, forward procurements, cost overruns, waste, fraud and abuse, all part of it. This is going to be more and more essential as we are dealing with, as you have noted, a restricted budget, and maybe a very restricted budget, depending on how things happen on sequestration.
The Navy is an indispensable part of our security apparatus.
First, it is the one visible projection of power that we have in the world. Obviously, our rebalancing of resources in the Asian-Pacific region are some indication of that.
Persian Gulf — we are talking — had been talking all day about Iran, about Israel, but specifically Iran and the Persian Gulf. You know we have our 5th Fleet there in Bahrain. We — two carrier battle groups in and out of that small little area. The flexibility, agility, missile defense, nuclear — all those capabilities are within the Navy.
So I am a strong supporter of advancing our Navy technology and our efforts, and I will continue to do that if confirmed.
Sen. KING: Thank you, Senator. I’ll have some more questions at a later time. Appreciate it.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator King.
SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, thank you very much for the tremendous service that you’ve already provided to this country and for your willingness to consider taking on this challenge as secretary of defense and for your stamina at this hearing this — all day. (Laughter.) You will certainly need it as secretary of defense.
I want to follow up on Senator King’s question about the Navy because the Navy is obviously very important to us in New Hampshire as well. Our four public shipyards are the backbone of our naval power. But according to the Navy, there’s a huge backlog of the restoration and modernization projects at our shipyards. According to last year’s numbers, that backlog was around $3 billion. At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which Senator King, Senator Ayotte and I are all very concerned about, that number was 513 million (dollars). And this backlog not only potentially affects our readiness, but it’s also not cost-effective. For example, a 2010 GAO report pointed out that a pier project at Norfolk, which I’m sure Senator Kaine is familiar with — if it had been addressed early, it would have cost 15 million (dollars). Because that didn’t happen, the pier now is going to cost about 85 million (dollars).
So in fiscal year ’12 Senators Collins, Ayotte and I included an amendment in the NDAA bill that requires the Pentagon to produce shipyard modernization plan to address these shortfalls. That report’s late. But it was promised in the upcoming budget submission for FY ’14. Will you commit to ensuring that this modernization plan is produced? And will you commit to pressing the Navy, within the fiscal constraints that I appreciate, but to fully fund the investments that are needed to save money in the long term and ensure that we continue to be very effective and efficient at our shipyards?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I will make that commitment to do everything I can to first understand the specifics, which I don’t know all the details. But your request is preliminary to effective, efficient use of our resources and planning and our national security. So I will make that commitment. If I am confirmed, I will get the details. I will assure that the Navy responds.
Sen. SHAHEEN: Thank you. And I’m sure Senators King and Ayotte join me in inviting you to come and visit the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. We hope that you will do that as soon as you’re confirmed.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. SHAHEEN: I know there’s been a fair amount of discussion earlier today about your involvement with the organization Global Zero and what your position is on nuclear weapons. I think it’s worth requoting what Senator Reed said about Ronald Reagan, who said that, “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.” I think every president since Ronald Reagan has supported that aspirational goal, recognizing that at this point in time it is a goal. Certainly that’s what President Obama has said he supports is that someday, probably not in this lifetime but someday, we should hope for a world that would be free of nuclear weapons.
I know I’ve heard you say that you agree with those two statements, but do you also agree that as long as nuclear weapons exist that we have to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversaries.
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, completely, absolutely. I have never had other position but that, as I have indicated this morning and this afternoon, and will continue to take that position, as I’ve said — I said in my opening statement and in answer to other questions.
Our nuclear deterrent has probably been the core of keeping world peace and avoiding a World War III, that nuclear deterrent, as long as there is the threat of nuclear weapons. And like you noted and President Obama noted in his Prague speech in 2009, it probably will not happen in our lifetime. But just as you noted, and Senator Reed’s comments about what President Reagan laid on the table in 1986, we need to keep working on it. We need to keep moving forward attempting to do it.
And quite frankly, if you look at the START agreements and you look at the different treaties we’ve had, we have brought those warheads down under both Republican and Democratic administrations, bipartisan, what Sam Nunn said this morning — he and his former colleagues, Secretary Kissinger, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Perry — hundreds of national leaders in Republican, Democratic administrations over the years have supported the reduction of weapons of nuclear destruction — not unilateral, but bilateral, negotiated and verifiable. As I said this morning, as Ronald Reagan said, “trust, but verify.” Nothing unilateral.
Sen. SHAHEEN: Thank you very much. Again, I know there’s been a lot of discussion about your comments relative to sanctions on Iran and various options that we might pursue with respect to Iran and nuclear weapons. But I wonder, again, if you would confirm what your position is on the president’s current strategy of strong diplomacy, tough international sanctions and keeping all the options on the table.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, you have just defined President Obama’s strategy on Iran, which I firmly support, strongly support. It is — it is the wise way to do it.
I don’t know if I mentioned this to you in our meeting, but I wrote a book in 2008, and I have a chapter on Iran. And I lay all that out in the chapter. As I’ve said, I don’t think President Obama went to my chapter and developed his strategy based on my chapter. But there’s nothing in that chapter that I wrote in that book in 2008 or anything I’ve ever said that deviates from where the president is.
The military option is always on the table, must be on the table — always should be the last option, always the last option. But aren’t we wiser and smarter if we can figure this out, accomplish our objectives without having to go to war for everybody?
Sen. SHAHEEN: I hope so.
You referenced the meeting that we had last week, and I very much appreciated your taking time to come in and sit down and talk about some of the statements that have been represented that you have addressed today.
One of those had to do with Israel’s security. And again, I know this has been discussed at length during the day today, but I wonder if again, you could reconfirm what your commitment is on Israel and the security of Israel in the Middle East.
Mr. HAGEL: My support of Israel’s security is and always has been very clear. I strongly support Israel. The security of Israel is a commitment that we made to Israel in 1948, when Israel was born, under American leadership, Harry Truman. That commitment is a bond that is more than just an ally to ally. It is special. It’s historical. It’s values-driven. I’ve never equivocated from that line. My votes in the Senate have shown that. What I’ve said publicly has shown that. I’ve said this in my book — absolutely, and will continue to do that.
Sen. SHAHEEN: Thank you very much.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Shaheen.
OK. We’re going to have a five-minute second round. And if we need a third round, we will have a third round.
I’m going to try to take less than five minutes so I can yield a couple minutes if I still have them to Senator Inhofe.
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Earlier today, Senator Hagel, one of my colleagues made a statement that you had not responded to requests for copies of all your speeches and to requests about contributions to certain organizations, I believe, that you either served or had spoken to. And you didn’t have the opportunity at that time to respond to that statement, and I want to give you the opportunity now if you wish to or, if you prefer, to respond for the record.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will respond for the record, but I will take this opportunity to respond. First, as far as I know — and I ask again at the break of our counsel, ethics office lawyers, have we responded to all requests or are we on — in the process of responding to every single request? The answer is yes. Some of these requests didn’t come in till yesterday, specifically the financial documentation request; copies of my speeches came in late.
We have given the committee every copy of every speech that I have that’s out there, every video that I have that’s out there. On paid speeches, most every one of those paid speeches — in the contract it says that they are private and not videotaped. That wasn’t my decision. That was the contract of the group I spoke to. I believe every paid speech I gave I didn’t have a prepared text. I gave it extemporaneously, which is something I’ve been doing for long before I left the Senate.
So we are fulfilling every legal commitment I said and I am obligated to, and I’ve complied with every ethical request. I always have. I did when I was in the Senate. I’ll continue to do it now. We are doing it now.
Sen. LEVIN: OK. There was one or two other times when you did not have the opportunity to reply to a question. And in order not to use up all my time, you should feel free to do that for the record.
We’re going to keep this record open until close of business tomorrow for questions, and for your answers, close of business Monday, which means 5:00 p.m. tomorrow for questions for the record, 5:00 p.m. on Monday for your responses to questions for the record. And at that time, would you give us the update on any additional documents, speeches or information that you have been requested to provide which you had not yet been able to but is in the works, so you could give us an update on them?
Mr. HAGEL: I will, and again, I have committed and will continue to commit to complying with every legal document, legal requirement.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you. I hope I have a minute or two that I can then yield to Senator Inhofe.
Sen. INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that courtesy very, very much. I’m going to have to hurry this up a little bit, because it’s less time than I thought we had — (inaudible) — to my good friend.
It was mentioned that one of the members up here thought I was being disrespectful during the time that I was questioning you. It was at a time when I had made the statement that you have been endorsed by the ministry of Iran for your nomination to be secretary of defense. Do you consider that to be a disrespectful notion on my part?
Sen. HAGEL: No, it’s a legitimate question.
Sen. INHOFE: Thank you very much.
I have kind of been the leader in — on postponing any further Abrams tanks or F-16s to Egypt until such time as that government is under control. This is my own statement only representing my own thoughts. I think Morsi’s an enemy. I think their military is a friend. And there was a vote a little while ago just to do away permanently with the sending of any of this equipment to Egypt. I don’t think that’s a good idea. What I think is a good idea is to continue to use that as leverage. If you do that, you lose the leverage.
Now, I believe that we are going to be in a position right now. Morsi has already distanced himself from the military. To me, that’s a first good step, and I would like to think that we could reinstate a friend — a friend in that area. And I would only ask you, would you agree with my statement that I came out with a long time ago, or my bill that I introduced, I should say, and I reintroduced in a stronger way today saying that we would withhold sending these — this equipment to Egypt until such time as these conditions are met?
And I mentioned the conditions of the — keeping the accords from Camp David and that type of thing. Would you consider that?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, that’s a policy decision that the president of the United States would make. I — if he asks for my advice, I would certainly give it to him.
But to the bigger question, I think it is important that our assistance to Egypt be conditional. They play an absolutely critical role in fulfilling the commitments of Camp David, the security of Israel and other (regional support ?).
Sen. INHOFE: OK, but — sorry to interrupt you, but this — we’re almost out of time right now. And I appreciate that answer.
The — you made one statement that I strongly disagreed with. You said that President Obama has been the strongest ally of Israel — or no, Israeli supporter since 1948. I have a hard time with that. And I know that he’s not up for confirmation; you are. But when you see statements coming out of the administration like the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel and Jordan and Egypt and they come out with a statement that’s like, we believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 border lines, these are statements that I think are very damaging, and I can assure you that the leadership over in Israel feel that those statements are damaging. And so I — do you still feel that this president, Obama, has been the strongest supporter of Israel since 1948?
Mr. HAGEL: I do. And I’ll tell you very quickly why. First of all, the 2006 Quartet Principles that President Bush laid down, I think, cover most of the points that you made, and I supported President Bush then and still do, what he did in developing those principles. But when you look at the assistance this administration has given to Israel, the most significant and largest military-to- military exercise, Austere Challenge, Israeli, U.S. forces last fall, the additional monies that we put into Iron Dome, the president’s position — we’ve got your back. I mean, I think it’s hard to — it’s hard to —
Sen. INHOFE: Yeah, you’ve answered the question. That’s fine. I appreciate it.
But I want to get one other subject before we run out of time here. It’s one that I know that you’re very interested in. You actually were a co-sponsor of the Missile Defense Act of 1999. And I was too. And so we agreed. Times have changed since that time. There was — at that time people thought of the — having the capabilities was confined to the USSR at that time, or Russia, and the United States. A lot has happened since then.
I often say that one of the things I disagreed with most in the first budget that this president had was when he did away with the ground-based interceptor site in Poland. I think most people are aware that that was built for protection of Western Europe and Eastern United States. I’m satisfied that we have, even with the reduction of ground-based interceptors on the West Coast, which I disagreed with, but I still think we have adequate protection on the West Coast. It’s from the East Coast. And right now we still — our intelligence still says today that Iran will have the weapon capability and the delivery capability by 2015. That’s why it was supposed to be there. Now, now there’s a discussion saying to cover that void, we need to have a third site. Do you support a third site — ground-based interceptor? It’d be on the East Coast somewhere.
Mr. HAGEL: I am aware of the NDAA authorization and instruction for a third site and the environmental impact statement. I don’t know enough of the details. If I am confirmed to go over there, I will get into it. But to respond to that, which I will for the record, I just don’t know enough about it.
Sen. INHOFE: OK, if you’d respond for the record, I think it’s very significant, and I think that most people are looking at this with this void. You know, you have a period of time between 2015 — nobody disputes the capability that Iran will have at that time. It’s not even classified. But there is still a void of about six years between that and when we would have the capability to knock down what has to be knocked down, unless we have a third site in place. And so I’m hoping that maybe for the record you’ll come back and say that you support the third — the third site.
The last thing I’ll mention, if you’ll forgive me, Mr. Chairman — when Senator Hirono talked to you, she talked about your efforts in — she used — her expectations on your being involved in using the Department of Defense for all these environmental things.
I would suggest to you that’s why we have a Department of Energy. And when I asked you the question, will you refrain from doing some of the things that have been done in the past in this administration, such as forcing the Navy to pay 50 — $26 a gallon for 450,000 gallons of fuel that you can buy for $3, and other things, it’s billions of dollars that we’re paying which we could be using for war fighting, and so I see an inconsistency in your answer to me and your answer to the senator from Hawaii.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, my answer to the senator from Hawaii was that I — I believe — they can read it back — that I am committed to all efficiencies that we can find in the Department of Defense which are in the interest of our country. I didn’t commit to any one program.
Sen. INHOFE: Or any program that would be a costly program on experimentation, such as the programs I’ve just mentioned, clearly are in the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy and they’re the ones supposed to be doing it. Don’t you agree that we should be confining ourselves to enhancing our war-fighter capabilities?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, of course. But I think within that realm, certainly the kind of money that we spend, as you’ve noted, on fuel, that should include some not only sense of that but are there things that we can be doing with our research and technology in Department of Defense, why wouldn’t we? I mean, it just seems that it would make sense.
Sen. INHOFE: Well, yes, we should, as a government, but that’s what the Department of Energy is supposed to be doing. And when you said, as you suggest, the high cost of fuel — yeah, it’s a high cost because we’re paying 10 times as much as we would have to pay, money that we could be putting toward our war-fighting efforts. That’s my point.
Sen. HAGEL: Well, yes, I agree, but why wouldn’t we be looking at all options? If we have the kind of sophisticated research and technology that the Department of Defense does and has possession of, why wouldn’t we be enlarging that? I don’t know anything more specific to or central to our security than energy.
Sen. INHOFE: Well, no, I — and I know my time has expired — but we’re spending literally millions, actually some billions of dollars on some of these experimentations that, again, are not in the purview of this. And right now we’re stalling 179 F-35s that we just recently are putting off, and I always say that if they put them off indefinitely, that’s just a cut, it’s not a put off. Those are things that we should be doing right now. We’re looking at the Ohio Class sub. We should be doing that right now, but we’ve postponed it. And if we were to spend the money that we’re spending on the environmental causes on war fighting, I think it would do us better good. Apparently you don’t agree with that.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I’ve said what I said —
Sen. INHOFE: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: — but I will commit this to you, Senator; that I — as I said to the senator from Hawaii, I will, if I’m confirmed, will obviously look at all these programs. I’ll have to.
Sen. INHOFE: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Thank you, sir. I feel like I want to apologize for some of the tone and demeanor today.
With that being said, if I could ask you this, since we’re so, again, talking about things you’ve done, things you’ve said over the years, how did you get to Vietnam? And I want to go back there. Were you ordered to go to Vietnam? Were you sent there, or how was your orders?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, actually, I got to Vietnam through kind of an interesting route. I volunteered for the draft, as my brother did a month after me. And during that time, in 1967, the draft was coming down with pretty heavy levies. You recall.
Sen. MANCHIN: I was there.
Mr. HAGEL: And I know your story. They wouldn’t take you. Not because you weren’t smart enough, of course, but they wouldn’t take you because of your knees. And I know you tried to bribe your way in, but they still wouldn’t let you. So I admire you for that effort. And I know your story.
I went to basic training, advanced infantry training. My brother followed me everywhere a month after me. After advanced infantry training, I was selected to be one of nine first class — then-top- secret shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile — called the red-eye gun. At the time, it was classified. It was built to bring down low-flying Soviet MiGs coming over Germany, eastern Germany down the Fulda Gap.
We went to White Sands Missile Range and spent two months training. It was all classified. Couldn’t get calls in or out.
We were them quietly, all nine of us, ordered to go to Germany and be integrated into NATO units without any fanfare or anybody knowing about it.
I got my orders to go to Germany. I went to Fort Dix, New Jersey, in November of 1967. My eight fellow soldiers and I were getting packed up to get the bus to go out to the airport to take a flight to Germany, and I just decided, if I was going to be in the military, it didn’t make much sense to go to Germany. I mean, I’d never been to Germany. My great-grandparents were from Germany — probably a pretty good place, I thought, but I had to go where there’s a war.
So I took my orders down to the orderly, told him I was Private Hagel, I had orders to go to Germany, here are my orders, and I wanted to volunteer go to Vietnam.
The office was a bit quiet. They put me in a holding room. They brought priests, rabbis, ministers, psychiatrists. All came in to examine me, thinking that I was — something was wrong: I was running away from something or I’d killed somebody.
After two days of testing me to see if I was OK, they held me, which — I scrubbed barracks for five days before they could cut new orders. And so they gave me new orders to go to Vietnam, sent me home for five days and then on to Travis Air Force Base in San Francisco, and I got to Vietnam December 1967, got back to the United States December — (inaudible).
Sen. MANCHIN: There’s no reason that any one of us should ever be concerned about — you’re willing to do anything that you possibly can to defend this country and making sure that we defend against all foreign enemies, wherever they may be.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I hope not, Senator. I mean, we can disagree on policies —
Sen. MANCHIN: Right.
Mr. HAGEL: — but I think my life and my commitment to this country’s pretty clear, and I’m proud of it.
Sen. MANCHIN: And on that sir, I would say that Israel — the spokespeople for Israel support you. They’ve come to me and they tell me they support you. Isn’t — have you gotten that verbal agreement?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, there are a lot of pro-Israeli groups that have formally come out and endorsed me, support me, which I’m grateful for.
Sen. MANCHIN: Yeah. And what I’ve heard today — it sounds like Iran has wishful thinking. (Chuckles.)
Mr. HAGEL: Evidently Iran supports me.
Sen. MANCHIN: Yeah.
The president has asked you to serve at this level. So he has confidence in you.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, the president did ask me to serve, and I said in my opening statement I am grateful and honored by that trust and confidence, and I will do everything in my power never to do anything that would disabuse that confidence and trust for this country.
Sen. MANCHIN: And one final — very quickly, if I may, as you see the role of secretary of defense — and I know we’ve talked about it, and you’ve been questioned on policy, and I know you’re not going to be in a policy position; you’re going to be basically following policy, not making policy — but the roles — if you could just wrap it up — what we should expect from your — from your position as secretary of defense.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, thank you, Senator. If I’m — if I’m confirmed, as I noted in my opening comments, I would see this relationship, Senator, as a partnership. I’m going to need your help. I’m going to need your advice. I’m going to need your collaboration.
Many people on this authorization committee have a great deal of experience in this business, many far more than I do, as is the case in the Congress, both the Senate and the House. I will need that. I will call upon that.
I won’t be in a policy-making position, as you note.
I also committed to all of you — and those of you who served with me know this — I’ll always be honest with you. You’ll never have to worry about that. I’ll listen to you. I’m sure we won’t always agree, but I’ll stay it straight, and I’ll give you and the president my honest, most informed advice, always.
Sen. MANCHIN: Thank you, and I’ll say one more thing. Where I come from, there’s an old saying: If you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything.
Mr. HAGEL: (Chuckles.) Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Manchin.
SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Senator Hagel. You’re holding up well. But it’s an important office, and you’ve asked to lead our Defense Department. I know you know the seriousness of that, and it’s exceedingly important.
You have to know — and particularly in recent years — there’s been tension in the Congress — between the executive and the Congress over a number of issues.
One of them is national missile defense. And that’s one subcommittee I’m a member of, and we’ve wrestled with that over the years and had, pretty consistently, a bipartisan congressional vote on those issues. We voted again this year — unanimous armed services defense authorization bill, both unanimous out of committee, on Chairman Levin’s leadership, and Senator McCain.
But I’m looking today — I believe in National Journal — the Obama administration is moving to begin new U.S.-Russian talks on further drawdowns of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. That’s also been an issue of concern. But I believe we’ve been staying fairly bipartisan and unified on that. But your report is what causes a great deal of concern, this study of the Global Zero group.
But I’d just note that Vice President Biden is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this weekend during the Munich Security Conference. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon will then head to Moscow in February. The president and — Obama and then- President Medvedev signed the bilateral New START treaty in 2010, calling for deployment of strategic nuclear arsenals involving 700 delivery systems.
Now, as I read the “Global Zero” report that you co-authored just last year, less than a year ago, you called for the elimination of all ICBMs, all tactical nuclear weapons, most of the bombers from — I think 67 B-52s eliminated, leaving only 18 bombers and 10 submarines. So instead of 700 delivery systems that was part of the New START, it looks like you’re down to about 28 delivery systems. So this is a dramatic — I want to introduce — a dramatic concern.
There are worries on Capitol Hill, the National Journal reports, that the administration could revise its missile shield strategy or go ahead with cutbacks to the U.S. stockpile as a means of drawing Russia into new negotiations, Foreign Policy magazine reported. Ahead of your unannounced discussions with Lavrov, House Committee Chairman — Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers asked that they have assurances as to what’s going on there, essentially.
And I would note that the — last year’s defense authorization bill calls for briefings on these discussions to the Congress through the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. It says not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this act and not less than twice each year thereafter, the president or the president’s designee shall brief the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Armed Services of the Senate on the dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation on issues related to limits or controls on nuclear arms, missile defense systems and long- range conventional strike system. The deadline for that briefing, I believe, would be March 2nd this year.
So I — first question to you, if you’re confirmed in this position, will you honor that request as part of the NDAA?
Mr. HAGEL: The request for the briefing?
Sen. SESSIONS: The briefings, yes, the requirements for the briefing. Will you keep the Congress advised on any discussions dealing with national missile defense, but — and dialogue with Russia on national missile defense and nuclear arms and long-range conventional strike systems?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I commit to do that.
Sen. SESSIONS: Also, the — as a sense of the Congress — on certain agreements, it is the sense of the Congress that any agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation related to nuclear arms or missile defense systems or long-range conventional strike systems obligating the United States to reduce or limit armed forces or armaments of the United States in any militarily significant manner may be made only pursuant to the treaty-making power of the president as set forth in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution of the United States.
That is a sense of our Congress that any significant alteration of those deeply important relations between our two nations, the two most powerful nuclear nations in the world, would be done by treaty.
Will you support that concept? And before making significant changes, present those changes to the Congress as pursuant to a treaty and not as a either secret or open bilateral agreement?
Mr. HAGEL: So your question is will I commit to a briefing on all of this if —
Sen. SESSIONS: No, whether or not that you — any significant changes that would occur in our relationship on those issues, significant — in any militarily significant matter may be made only pursuant to the treaty-making power of the president? And we would ask that that be presented to this Congress, because we have treaties already that impact so much of this, and Congress believes in — that those — any changes should also be made by treaty.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I — without getting into specifics of it, let me just commit to obviously consultation with the Congress, with the authorizing committee, yes.
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, it seems like we’ve not been consulted on the Biden trip and the Donilon trip. We expect that to be done. It — what’s been going on is disturbing to us. The president said, you know, to Mr. Medvedev that we’ll have more flexibility after the election, and he was clearly responding to these issues, missile defense I think particular, and maybe nuclear issues also. He wasn’t consulting with the American people, wasn’t telling us or the Congress what he planned to do, but he was apparently willing to discuss it with the Russian leaders.
So I guess I’m asking you, will you comply with the treaty-making matters? If these agreements are significant militarily, I believe they should be done by treaty and not by our personal agreements between our two leaders.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I would commit to fulfilling any treaty obligations and any commitments to the Congress and any consultations that the Congress needs to be part of, absolutely.
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, I’m not sure that answered the question, because the Congress is concerned about these kind of negotiations that are going on. We do not have — the president also has made it clear he believes in zero nuclear weapons. That is his policy for America. I think it’s utterly unrealistic. It’s just amazing to me. And that could lead us into unwise decision-making, and Congress has a responsibility to the American people to ensure the national defense, and we need to know and have you share those negotiations with us. And changes that impact our security relationships between us and Russia should be done by treaty, as they’ve been done in the past.
Mr. HAGEL: Are you — well, are you — I’ve never —
Sen. SESSIONS: Are you committing that?
Mr. HAGEL: I’ve never discussed any of the specifics of this with the president. I know he knows and believes and is committed to treaties. That’s the purview of the — of the United States Senate, as the Senate passed the New START treaty. All that goes into that negotiation with, in this particular case, Russia — certainly the Congress has to be involved in that.
Sen. SESSIONS: Well, that’s very important, Senator Hagel, I just have to tell you, because there’s unease here. That may not be in the works. There’s been some discussion for some time about private unilateral or bilateral negotiations which Congress is not involved that impacts the national security of our country, and that’s why this was passed — just passed. And so we expect you to comply with that, and I take your testimony that you would comply — (inaudible) —
Mr. HAGEL: I will comply with all requirements and laws and — absolutely.
Sen. SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Sessions. Senator King.
Sen. KING: Senator Hagel, one of the first meetings I had after I began running for this office last summer was with a group of veterans going all the way from World War II right up through Iraq and Afghanistan. And one of the — I want to share with you one of the ideas that came out of that meeting, because it’s been touched upon today, and that is the issue of employability and employment of particularly recent veterans.
And the suggestion was made that the Army and the military has recruiters, people who help to bring people in. And perhaps it might make some sense for them to have the reciprocal of recruiters, outplacement people, to deal with soldiers who are — men and women who are about to leave because there’s an information gap, is what the veterans told me, between leaving the military active duty and then going into the Veterans Administration jurisdiction. There’s a — there’s a gap there.
And I’m just — you don’t really need to respond, but that’s a suggestion I might make, where it would be tremendously helpful to provide that kind of information, what the programs are, what’s available, what the scholarships are, how the GI Bill works, all those things, to people, and I’m sure it’s done to some extent now, but to really regularize that and increase it to be comparable to the effort that’s put into recruiting.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Senator. I will think about that. I have not thought exactly about that potential, but I would say that as we think through how do we accommodate and fulfill commitments and assist our veterans, I think we’ve got to open up all vistas of new thinking. And that is one that would deserve some exploration. And if I’m confirmed, I look forward to pursuing the idea with you.
Sen. KING: Thank you. I’m also serving on the Intelligence Committee. And one of the issues — and you talked about this in your statement, and it’s been touched upon some today — is the whole issue of counterterrorism. And counterterrorism involves the actions of a number of agencies and bodies of the United States government. And I would commend to you that I think it deserves some real thought as to where the Department of Defense ends — stops and CIA begins in terms of action and counterterrorism action. I think there’s some — it would be worthwhile for you to — if you’re confirmed, to meet with Mr. Brennan, if he’s confirmed, to talk about the coordination between the two agencies so we don’t end up with similar, if not identical, functions in different regions of the world with whole different command structures, rules of engagement and all of those kinds of things. I think counterterrorism sort of spans the — covers the gap or the relationship between traditional defense and the intelligence community.
Mr. HAGEL: That is an area that is becoming more and more relevant, complicated, Title 10 versus Title 50 and all those dynamics. And if confirmed, yes, if Mr. Brennan is confirmed, we’ll be spending some time together.
Sen. KING: Final thought — and I know you’ve touched upon this. I don’t think we can adequately emphasize the importance of the cyber threat. That may well be the war of the future. And I — my sense is that we aren’t — we’re all talking about it, but I’m not sure we have the sense of urgency, and I know Secretary Panetta has increased or proposed the increase of that capacity. But you know, people can die and our society could be brought to a standstill without a rocket ever taking off or an airplane penetrating our airspace. And I hope that will be a point of emphasis because that — as I say, I think that may be the next war.
Mr. HAGEL: I agree. I, as you know, noted it in my opening statement. And I agree with everything you’ve said. This is a huge issue that continues to loom large over our future and our security. And it will have, if confirmed, a lot of my attention.
Sen. KING: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.
Sen. KING: In the absence of the chairman, Senator Ayotte, I believe it’s your opportunity.
SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. KING: Wow, that was fast.
Sen. AYOTTE: You’ve been promoted very quickly. (Laughter.)
Sen. KING: I really think that’s the —
Sen. AYOTTE: First of all, you know, we’ve all expressed our deep respect for your service to our country, but also, let me thank you for your endurance. We appreciate it.
And I wanted to ask you about a speech that you made in 2007. It was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and it was a speech entitled “The United States and Iran: At Dangerous Crossroads.” And in that speech, you — in referring to Iran, you said that the strategy of containment remains relevant today.
And so I wanted to ask you about that statement that you made in 2007 about the strategy of containment remains relevant with regard to Iran today. Now, that was in 2007. But why would you say that, first of all? And then, isn’t that inconsistent with what you’ve been saying today with regard to containment?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I don’t have the speech in front of me. And I think there was more to it than just that — that few words that you quoted. If I recall — the entire speech was about how do we deal with Iran. If I recall, what I was inventorying in the specific reference to containment was, within that inventory, what are the options? I don’t think that speech says that I support it.
Sen. AYOTTE: No, but you said that it was relevant to the discussion with Iran, and I guess I would ask you to say why do you think that that was a strategy that we should have considered? It was obviously one of the things you mentioned.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I didn’t say it was a strategy, I don’t think. As I said, in the context of how do we —
Sen. AYOTTE: I don’t want to be, you know, unfair, but I think just to be clear, the quote that I was — that you said was the strategy of containment remains relevant. So why was —
Mr. HAGEL: OK, well —
Sen. AYOTTE: — why is it relevant with regard to Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: The bigger point is, what I was saying, I think — I don’t — I haven’t looked at that speech since I gave it, probably, but I do recall some of it, and the point was, what is the range of options that we would have to look at, the world would look at. Again, I didn’t advocate it. I didn’t recommend it. I didn’t support it.
Sen. AYOTTE: Was it that containment was one of the options?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. I mean, of course, when you look at the whole range of what your options are, that certainly would be one of them.
Sen. AYOTTE: Do you think containment’s one of the options now?
Mr. HAGEL: No, I don’t now, but — doesn’t make any difference what I think. It’s when you look at ranges — it’s like the Global Zero. That was not a recommendation report. That was a range of goals, aspirations, possibilities. That wasn’t in any way — that report never said, we recommend the following. And if I recall that speech, I think that was the same kind of what’s the range of options.
Sen. AYOTTE: And Senator, I want to be clear it does matter what you think, and obviously, your understanding and thought process on these issues is very important to us.
So as a follow-up — I know that Senator Vitter had asked you about a portion of the book that you wrote, “America: Our Next Chapter.” And it was in that book you had said that the genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does, obviously North Korea, other powers. In this imperfect world, sovereign nation states possessing nuclear weapons capability, as opposed to stateless terrorist groups, will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior.
Do you believe that Iran responds or will respond with some degree of responsible or sane behavior?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first of all, it’s not what I suggested in that quote, as you know.
Sen. AYOTTE: Well, it’s in the context of Iran. But I’m asking you just straightforwardly, do you think that the Iranian regime responds — you talked about the difference between nation states versus, for example, stateless terrorist organizations. Do you believe — in the context of Iran, do you believe that the Iranian regime responds with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior or will respond like that?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, so far they have not. And I have said, as you know — and I said in that same book that you’re quoting from — that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I’ve said that many times. So no is the answer to —
Sen. AYOTTE: So if they’re not — I mean they haven’t been responding with a level of — with a degree of responsible or sane behavior, and, as you say in your book, that it’s a state sponsor of terrorism, I’m also struggling with the question of why you would have thought that it was appropriate for us to have direct, unconditional talks with Iran. Because here we have a regime that doesn’t respond in a responsible or sane behavior, is a state sponsor of terrorism, and what we thought we could — why that would be an appropriate manner for us to address them.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, first, I said engagement. And I think we should talk. We actually are, indirectly, in the P-5 plus one. We have been. I think that’s responsible. I think it’s always responsible to try to talk first. North Korea. I don’t think that — I don’t consider North Korea a responsible, sane administration, but we’re talking to North Korea.
We’ve been talking bilaterally to North Korea. We’re talking with the parties six (sic) to North Korea. I think that’s wise. I think it’s always wise to try to talk to people before you get into war.
Sen. AYOTTE: But I think that you were not just — you were beyond the P-5. You were for direct discussions with our two countries and also for establishing diplomatic ties with our country.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, again, when I talked about the possibility of diplomatic ties or even, I said, I think, in 2002, encouraging Iran to join the WTO, I’ve always thought that that’s smarter and wiser if you can push — help push institutions like China into world bodies, because when they go into world bodies, they have to comply with some semblance of international behavior. Doesn’t mean they always will. They won’t. They cheat. But I think we’re smarter to do that.
I’ve never — Senator, I’ve never thought engagement is weakness. I never thought it was surrender. I never thought it was appeasement. I think it’s clearly in our interest. If that doesn’t work, then I think the president’s position and his strategy have been exactly right. Get the United Nations behind you, get the international sanctions behind you, keep military options on the table. If the military option is the only option, it’s the only option.
Sen. AYOTTE: Just to be clear, I don’t think that all engagement is weakness, either, but I think there’s a huge distinction when we’re dealing with a regime that is the largest state sponsor of terrorism. And given the fact that they have a long history, including in Iraq, with assisting the militias to murder our troops, including what they’ve done with Hezbollah and Hamas, what they’re doing now in Syria — so I think there’s always a distinction in how we deal with different players around the world is my point.
And I know that my time has expired, and I will submit for the record questions that I think are very important about the Virginia class submarine. I share the important work done at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard with my colleague Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and also I know Senator King is very focused on that and maintaining our submarine fleet. I know that Senator Blumenthal asked you about that as well.
And I do have concerns that part of the Global Zero report does recommend that the Ohio class submarine would actually be diminished down to 10. So I’ll follow up with those questions in the record and let you go now. Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: I’ll be glad to — glad to respond. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Ayotte.
Senator Donnelly — OK.
SENATOR DEB FISCHER (R-NE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Senator Hagel. It’s been a long day, and I do appreciate your answers to these important questions.
When we spoke last week, we talked somewhat about the sequester, also budget concerns, the modernization of our nuclear forces. Especially being from Nebraska, you understand the importance of STRATCOM and its mission as it deals with the deterrence that we use in this country and that we’ve used for many, many years and I believe has been very, very successful, and it’s good point for us.
Today you also, in your opening, discussed the need to modernize our nuclear — or our defensive forces. You spoke to Senator Blunt, also Senator Blumenthal about the need to modernize our Navy.
I guess I would like to hear your thought process about how we’re going to do this. Where’s the money coming from? How are you going to advise the president in making these decisions? Because we’re looking at sequester. We’re looking at budget constraints. How is this all going to tie together? And what would be your advice to the president on how the Pentagon is going to address all of those budget constraints?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, let’s start with where we are. The Pentagon is adjusting, and I think responsibly, to our future based on the Budget Control Act of 2011. And you know the details of that. The chiefs have submitted plans. I think as we rebalance and refit and unwind a second war and all the other dynamics — they’re changing since the last decade — gives us some new opportunities — audits, all the acquisition focus, accountability. We are being forced, the Department of Defense, to take a hard look at its priorities.
But as I’ve said before, it begins with mission and then the resources to fulfill that mission, and then what are the priorities within that mission?
To your specific question, how do you finance it all, well, if sequestration would take effect, then all of this is going to be affected. That’s exactly right. As you know, we’ve deferred some decisions. We’ve set back some of the schedules on some of our ships, planes, decisions on a number of things. It isn’t just the dollars that affect this, but it’s the planning; it’s the flexibility; it’s the ability to bring all this together and then project and plan.
So in no way — I hope I did not give any indication that we were going to be able to continue to do everything for everybody everywhere. That’s just — that’s just not a reality.
Sen. FISCHER: We can’t. We can’t.
Mr. HAGEL: We can’t.
Sen. FISCHER: How do you decide, though? Do — you’ve made commitments to members here today on philosophy, on working with this committee. Do we have a commitment to build up the Navy? Do we have a commitment to STRATCOM so that they can continue their mission of deterrence? Do we have those commitments? How do you — how do you decide what’s going to be the priority? What will your advice be? Is STRATCOM important? Should that be a priority? Would it be a priority in your advice to the president?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, the Pentagon is working off the Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which this committee passed. And that is the directive that frames the budgetary restraints except if sequestration takes effect. So that prioritizes, to your point, I mean, what’s important, what do you budget for, what do you finance. And we have to manage that. And if I’m confirmed, then I will be working closely with our chiefs and all of our managers and decision- makers on how we do this.
On STRATCOM, I think STRATCOM is vitally important to the future of this country. It’s been my position when I was in the Senate; it was my position long before I was in the — in the Senate. The nine combatant commands — as you know STRATCOM is one of them — that’s a key command. So we have to continue to fund our commands and find ways to do that. But that’s going to require some tough choices and hard decisions.
Sen. FISCHER: Right. And also, I believe we need to make sure we don’t have hollow forces out there as well.
My time’s up. Once again, I thank you. I thank you for your service. I thank you for being here today. I thank you for your willingness to continue to serve the people of this country. Thank you.
Sen. HAGEL: Senator, thank you. Thank you very much.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Fischer. Senator Blunt.
SENATOR ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Thank you, Chairman, and again join everybody else, Senator Hagel, in thanking you for staying today and the answers you’ve given.
One of the things we were frustrated about was the difficulty of getting information of the groups you’ve spoken to in the last year, and of course the hundreds of groups you’ve spoken to in the course of your career would be too much to ask.
I do have three comments from groups that I’m going to enter into the record, one — two comments you made before groups, one the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee conference in 2002, another the Arab — another Arab-American audience in 2007, and then in 2006, the one I’ll put in the record right now and just enter the others: the Council on American-Islamic Relations forum.
University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer praised Hagel for not being pro-Israel. He said, quote, “Potential presidential candidates for 2008 like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel.” Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to go with that of what you might have said.
But some of the concerns of being outside — you know, I used to say when I was in the whip in the House that you could count on the House and the Senate to be, among other things, always pro-Israel, and I think that’s been the mainstream of our views. I’ve seen a number of times, in fairness to you, where you’ve said you’re pro-Israel but that doesn’t mean you have to be reflexively for everything that Israel is for.
This was — these statements are a little — they’re what they are. They’re the things that were reported from comments you made that are out of the context of the other comments. But I’m going to put those all in the record.
Also, earlier today I asked you about the comment about the bloated Pentagon. I want to get this straight. You said that that — those comments were before the sequestration bill passed, and they were after. Sequestration passed on August 2. The Financial Times interview was on August 29. And what you said on August 29 of — in that Financial Times interview was you said, I think — August 29, 2011 — the quote out of the article was, the Defense Department, I think — this is your quote — “the Defense Department, I think, in many ways, has been bloated. Let’s look at the reality here. The Defense Department’s gotten everything it wanted the last 10 years and more; we’ve taken priorities; we’ve taken dollars; we’ve taken programs; we’ve taken policies out of the State Department, out of a number of other departments, and put them over in Defense.”
So that “bloated” comment was after sequestration. Of course, this is the department you now, 18 months later, if this nomination is approved, would be running. And again, you know, where do we find that — those bloated things in the Defense Department, and what do you prioritize? Another way to ask what Ms. Fischer was asking, maybe, is are we going to let money drive strategy here or strategy drive the money? And as secretary of defense, which of those positions are you going to take, and how are you going to advocate, here’s the money we need for the strategy we must have until we get to the reality of, here’s the money you have, now do the best you can with it? I hope you’re an advocate for strategic-driven spending in the Pentagon rather than just the caretaker of the money that winds up there.
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, thank you. You’ve — there are a lot of pieces, and I know we’ve got time issues. But let me start this way. First, on the comments I made in the Financial Times interview, again, as I address that today, that was an extensive interview about a lot of things. And so I was three weeks off. So I’m —
Sen. BLUNT: Well, you were — you were after the sequestration bill had passed, though, so you were talking about —
Mr. HAGEL: Not sequestration, the Budget Control Act.
Sen. BLUNT: But it — that’s what included — they were talking here about what would happen if you took these cuts.
Mr. HAGEL: That’s what I was talking about. But the Budget Control Act that was passed, that was implemented a few months later, which I agreed with — and obviously, the majority of the Congress did as well — to try to find a trillion dollars overall in our government of savings, and 490 billion (dollars) of that is coming out of DOD for the next 10 years.
But to your bigger point, you start there with the reality of what the Congress has passed, what the Congress has decided to appropriate for each federal agency in this current fiscal year that we are living in. As you know, it’s a $525 billion operating budget and 88 billion (dollars) for overseas contingencies. So the Department of Defense works within the framework of those numbers.
I’ve said a number of times here that I agree with you. That budget alone should not drive our national security, of course not. What is the mission, as I’ve said? What are the priorities, which you just brought up about different projects, as Senator Fischer and others have asked me about? How are you going to fund everything? Should you fund everything? Do times change? Are there different threats? Ten years ago we put a lot of money in the Defense Department budget — there was no such thing as a cyber warfare threat. Do we need to do more there? Do we need to change our force presence in Asia? Well, we’ve decided we’re going to do that. That changes things. We’re moving Marines around in the Pacific. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago.
So things change. You manage and you direct your efforts and you lead based on the security interests of your country first. I — if I am confirmed, Senator, I will be a strong — have to be a strong advocate for the Defense Department.
That will be part of my job. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some responsibilities for efficient use of the taxpayer’s dollars and effective use of the taxpayer’s dollars.
Sen. BLUNT: Well, just the opposite. Just that you have that responsibility, right.
Mr. HAGEL: I do. That’s right.
Sen. BLUNT: But I think the point is, we want to be sure that you’re advocating for the money you think you need to strategically accomplish what we can, then obviously, at the end of the day you have to deal with the will of the process to provide the money you have. But we ought to let the money as much as possible be defined by the strategy rather than the other way around, Senator. And —
Mr. HAGEL: I agree.
Sen. BLUNT: I’m once again out of time.
Mr. HAGEL: I agree with that, Senator. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Blunt. Senator Reed.
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, we have listened all afternoon to a series of questions about what you said in 2002 and 2006 and 2007. I expect, though, if you’re confirmed as the secretary of defense, the president of the United States will not turn to you and ask you about your full speeches, as eloquent as they were. He will ask you if you’re prepared to advise him on matters of literally life and death, that you have prepared the Department of Defense to address every contingency in a thoughtful way, knowing the cost and the benefits, that he assumes, as I do and as you stated repeatedly, your staunch commitment to our allies, and particularly in the context today of the state of Israel, and that you are fundamentally committed to the welfare of our troops and families because you have seen as a soldier that ultimately, they are the difference in our military. So looking not backwards to a series of individual quotes and footnotes and et cetera, but looking ahead, if you are there and the president turns to you, can you give us — and I think you can, I’m convinced of that — the confidence that you will be prepared to give him the advice he needs to make life-and-death decisions, which he as commander in chief must make?
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, when the president asked me to consider this job, I didn’t want another job. I was not looking for another job. Lilibet and I had a pretty good life since I left the Senate and, I think, personal. But he friendships that we’ve maintained here and valued here and experiences we had here, we will treasure for all — always, highest privilege in my life, serving this body.
I say that because I wasn’t looking for another job. The president asked me to come see him, and we had a long conversation one night, just the two of us, over an hour. And we talked about the job, the world, security, the future. And within the context of that conversation, we got down into, what about this job?
I didn’t try to sell him on the job that I could do it. And in fact, when he asked me about why am I qualified or why would I be uniquely qualified, I said, I’m not. There are — there are a lot of very qualified Americans who can do this job. I don’t think a lot of them in the sense of they’re out there everywhere; I think there are some qualifications for this job. But I’m not the only one. And I said, Mr. President, I’m not going to sit here and try to convince that I’m the right person. You know me. You know my record. You know what I believe.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with him pretty closely over the last four years as I’ve served as co-chairman with you and Senator Levin’s former colleague, Senator Dave Boren from Oklahoma, on President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. That’s allowed me to stay pretty current with intelligence and make a contribution maybe a little bit there. And in the last four years I’ve served on Secretary Gates’, Secretary Panetta’s policy advisory boards. And so I do have some understanding, as I told him of this.
But why I think when Lilibet and I talked about it I agreed to go forward with this is because of the tremendous opportunities and the important time that we — that we are living in and the opportunities we now have to make a better world. I think the next few years are going to be as defining and as important in this country as truly as any few years post-World War II.
I told the president he was here at a very defining time. And if I can help him do that, if I can help this country, I want to do it. The experiences I’ll bring to the job, Senator, you know. I think I’ve got a pretty varied background on a lot of things. I think always in the end, like any job, judgment is the ultimate determinant of everything.
I think experience is a factor, varied experience, responsible experience. But that all adds up to judgment. And I hope if I’m confirmed I can do those things to give the president and this country wise, informed, honest advice. And I will do everything within my power to do that.
Sen. REED: Thank you very much.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Reed.
SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, thank you for remaining through what has been a very long hearing. I’d like to ask some additional questions to further explore your positions and your record, and begin with asking, are you familiar with an individual named Chas Freeman.
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. Yes.
Sen. CRUZ: He was, if I understand correctly, a vice chairman at a the Atlantic Council? Is that correct?
Mr. HAGEL: When I became chairman of the Atlantic Council, after I left the Senate, to replace General Jim Jones, he was one of many board members and I think was a vice chairman. But I never really worked with him in the Atlantic Council, but I know him, yes.
Sen. CRUZ: And you and he were part of a group that traveled last year to China together? is that correct as well?
Mr. HAGEL: No, that’s not correct.
Sen. CRUZ: OK. There have been press reports to that effect.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, those press reports are incorrect.
Sen. CRUZ: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: I’ve never been on any trip with Chas Freeman.
Sen. CRUZ: There have also been press reports that has described Mr. Freeman as helping coordinate efforts to defend your nomination. Is that an accurate characterization?
Mr. HAGEL: I haven’t spoken with Chas Freeman in years. I don’t know of any activity that he’s involved in to endorse me or — a lot of people, I appreciate, are endorsing me and supporting me. But I haven’t talked to Chas Freeman in years.
Sen. CRUZ: Is he someone whose judgment you respect?
Mr. HAGEL: I think Chas Freeman has been an important public servant for this country. There are a lot of different opinions that people have on different issues. I don’t agree with everybody, and it’s pretty clear everybody doesn’t agree with me. So that’s OK.
Sen. CRUZ: Do you consider his views well within the mainstream?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, what views are you speaking about, Senator?
Sen. CRUZ: His views on the Middle East and on the nation of Israel.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, I’m not actually that familiar with all of his views. I can’t speak for Chas Freeman.
Sen. CRUZ: All right. Well, let’s move on to your record, then. And you stated in your prepared remarks, quote: My overall world view has never changed.
I have to admit I find that difficult to reconcile with statements and positions you’ve taken for over a decade and what seems to me a fairly significant shift since you’ve been nominated for secretary of defense. So what I’d like to do is go through some past statements, past positions of yours and just clarify if you agree with them or not.
Beginning with number one. 2001, you voted against legislation sanctioning Iran. Now, am I correct you no longer agree with that position; you think sanctions against Iran are a good policy today.
Mr. HAGEL: I have said, on the record, multilateral international sanctions —
Sen. CRUZ: Do you agree with sanctions against Iran?
Mr. HAGEL: I’m sorry?
Sen. CRUZ: Do you think sanctions against Iran are a good idea today?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes. Yes. Yes, I always have, international —
Sen. CRUZ: Yes. So it’s fair — I’m trying to characterize your — I’m trying to understand your views and characterize them fairly. It’s fair to say you no longer agree with the position in 2001 that we should not be sanctioning Iran.
Mr. HAGEL: That was a unilateral sanction. And the Bush administration —
Sen. CRUZ: Today do you think unilateral sanctions are a bad idea?
Mr. HAGEL: Well, it’s a different time now because we now have international sanctions on. I’ve supported —
Sen. CRUZ: Senator Hagel, please answer the question I asked. Today do you think unilateral sanctions would be a bad idea?
Mr. HAGEL: Not today, 12 years later.
Sen. CRUZ: So that is not a view you would agree with today.
Mr. HAGEL: Because times have changed. We now have international sanctions on them.
Sen. CRUZ: OK.
The second slide. In 2007, you voted against legislation designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group.
Mr. HAGEL: That’s correct.
Sen. CRUZ: You no longer agree with that policy. Today your position is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist group. Is that correct?
Mr. HAGEL: The Revolutionary Guard is part of the Iranian government. The reason I voted against —
Sen. CRUZ: Sir, I’m not asking the reason. I’m asking for your views today. Do you believe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist group, yes or no?
Mr. HAGEL: It is part of a state sponsor of terrorism. So it’s part of Iran, which I’ve said is a sponsor of state terrorism.
Sen. CRUZ: Does that — is that a yes?
Mr. HAGEL: That vote wasn’t that question. That vote gave —
Sen. CRUZ: I’m asking your views today. Do you believe the Iranian Revolutionary National Guard is a terrorist group?
Mr. HAGEL: It is part of a terrorist — is part of a government that supports terrorism.
Sen. CRUZ: Is that a yes or a no?
Mr. HAGEL: It’s the answer I just gave you.
Sen. CRUZ: All right, we’ll move on to the next one. 2008, you also voted against comprehensive Iran sanctions. We’ve already discussed that today you agree with sanctions. So that is another — (inaudible) —
Mr. HAGEL: Again, was a unilateral sanction that the Bush administration was opposed to. And the secretary of state of this country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wrote that. And I —
Sen. CRUZ: Sir, my time is limited. I understand that you want to give reasons for the past positions. We’ve discussed the reasons. I’m simply trying to clarify your positions today. If you look at number four, in 2010 you stated, you’re not sure it’s necessary to keep all options on the table with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. Do you agree with that position today, or is that no longer your position?
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t — I don’t recall that. I have always said that all options remain on the table. I don’t recall that speech.
Sen. CRUZ: So this is not your position today? I’m just trying to understand —
Mr. HAGEL: No, it’s not. No, I have said that all options must remain on the table, including, in fact, in an op-ed I wrote with two former CENTCOM commanders last year.
Sen. CRUZ: And the final one I’m going to ask you, in a 1998 Senate hearing, you stated that the U.S. has, quote, “tilted too far towards Israel in the Middle East peace process.” Do you continue to agree with this position, or is that no longer your position today?
Mr. HAGEL: I don’t remember that, the context of the hearing or the speech or the — all the things I said in it. No, I don’t think the United States has tilted too far to Israel. The — I support the president’s position on Israel. I’ve said in my book and other speeches that I strongly support Israel.
Sen. CRUZ: So you do not agree with — you do not agree with this policy? I will point out that I have a list of 10 other statements which I’m pretty confident if I asked you, you would say you do not agree with. And they’re all statements in quotes from you.
In my judgment, your record as a United States senator — and you and I don’t know each other. We do not have a personal relationship, but I think your record and your past statements as a United States senator demonstrate greater antagonism for the nation of Israel than any member of this body and also demonstrate a greater willingness to stand against sanctions, stand against military action, stand against any strong position against Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorists.
And that ultimately is why the Washington Post described your foreign policy views as, quote, “near the fringe of the Senate.” And that raises, I think, very serious questions about your suitability to serve as the secretary of defense. In my view, having a secretary of defense who is not viewed as supporting credible, strong military action makes it more likely the United States will be drawn into military conflict. And I think that would be a very unfortunate outcome.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Cruz.
That ends the second round. If you want an opportunity to comment on that, if not, I will ask you some other questions.
The — by the way, Senator Ayotte, in reaction to one of the things you said about it doesn’t matter what I believe, I think what you are — first of all, I think it does matter. We all would agree it very much matters what you believe. But I think what you were pointing out is that ultimately what matters is what the president believes. I think that’s what you were aiming at.
Mr. HAGEL: That’s exactly what I was aiming at. And that’s what I meant to say. That’s right. Thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: Thank you.
I’m now going to ask you the standard questions that I’ve delayed. And these are just the questions we ask of every nominee. Have you adhered to applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: Have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process?
Mr. HAGEL: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the —
Sen. LEVIN: Have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process?
Mr. HAGEL: No.
Sen. LEVIN: Will you ensure that your staff complies with deadlines established for requested communications, including questions for the record in hearings?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: If you are confirmed, would you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to congressional requests?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: Will those witnesses be protected from reprisal for their testimony or their briefings?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: Do you agree, if confirmed, to appear and testify upon request before this committee?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: And do you agree that you will provide documents, including copies of electronic forms of communication, in a timely manner when requested by a duly constituted committee or to consult with the committee regarding the basis for any good-faith delay or denial in providing such documents?
Mr. HAGEL: Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: Now we’ve completed our second round, and that means that we can — if there’s other questions remaining, we can take a few minutes for them.
Is there anybody that wants to — yes, Senator King.
Sen. KING: One very brief question. In watching television over the last week or so, I’ve seen an ad questioning your nomination, a television ad. And I just wondered if you or any of the people that have worked on preparing you for this has any idea who’s sponsoring that ad, because it’s not apparent from the ad itself. Do you have — have you gotten to the bottom of that?
Mr. HAGEL: Senator, first, I’ve not any of those ads. I know they’re there.
I long ago figured out the better way to live life is not get drug down into the underbrush of these kinds of things, and so I don’t pay attention to it. My focus is on what’s important about this assignment, this job, if I’m confirmed, and in particular this committee and this body, and preparing myself, hopefully for what matters, and the possibility — with the possibility that the United Senate confirms me for this job.
So I have not asked anybody that question. I don’t know. Never seen the ads.
Sen. KING: Thank you very much, and thank you for your testimony today. You’ve been forthright and strong, and I — again, I appreciate your commitment to this country.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Senator.
Sen. LEVIN: Another question?
Sen. CRUZ: Very briefly, I wanted to thank you for your commitment to this committee, number one, to provide a complete accounting and copies of the speeches you’ve given, and number two, to respond to the letter that you received two days ago requesting specific financial information. I appreciate your commitment to do that.
I also would ask you, in our discussion about Chas Freeman, you said you were not particularly close with him but that your understanding was his views were within the mainstream, if that’s a fair characterization.
Mr. HAGEL: No, I didn’t say in the mainstream.
Sen. CRUZ: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: I said I don’t know.
Sen. CRUZ: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: Yeah.
Sen. CRUZ: What I would ask you to do also as a follow-up is to review in particular a speech that Mr. Freeman gave on March 4th, 2011, at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., and give me your judgment in terms of whether you agree with the views on the Middle East and the views of the nation of Israel that are expressed in that speech. And in particular I would be interested in your views on the fifth paragraph of that speech. In my view, the views expressed in that speech are not accurate and not within the mainstream, and I would be interested in if you concur in that assessment or if you have a different assessment.
Sen. LEVIN: That’s a question you’re asking for the record, I —
Sen. CRUZ: For the record, yes.
Sen. LEVIN: OK.
Mr. HAGEL: Mm hmm. Yes.
Sen. LEVIN: And other questions for the record need to be submitted, as I said before, by tomorrow at 5 p.m.
And I assume, Senator Cruz, that when you said that he’s agreed to provide all of the speeches, it would be all the speeches that he has access to. Is that fair?
Sen. CRUZ: That he has or that he can get copies of. I would certainly hope and expect that he would — he would engage in reasonable efforts to get copies of speeches if he doesn’t have them in his immediate files.
Sen. LEVIN: Well, we’ll say that if you have easy access, reasonable access to speeches you’ve given even though you don’t have them, that we would expect that you could provide those as well, as well as the other information you’ve indicated you’re perfectly happy to submit; you just haven’t had the time to get it ready. But that —
Mr. HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, I will commit to that and every request as — we have. As I said, some of this I didn’t see until yesterday. But everything that is out there that we can find, we’ll make every effort to get it and provide it.
Sen. LEVIN: Well, we very much appreciate that and your openness and your responses today.
The — again, the record will be open till tomorrow, as I said, at 5:00. But your answers, we would hope and expect, would be in by Monday at 5:00 p.m. because we would very much like to move this nomination forward to a resolution, first on this committee, and that timetable would help us move in an expeditious way.
We thank you, we thank your family, your friends.
Mr. HAGEL: Well, thank you.
Sen. LEVIN: And we will now — unless there are other questions, we will now stand adjourned. Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.