The 113th congress is off to a fast start, and the coming months will be among the more critical for defending the America you and I love so much.
On Jan. 4th, I was nominated to be the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). As the top Republican on this key committee, I am committed to making sure our military remains strong with the resources our servicemen and women need. A couple of the pressing issues we are addressing are defense sequestration and the drawdown of Operation Enduring Freedom. I believe we are at a critical juncture for our national defense and international policies. As President Obama continues his efforts to force change in our Armed Forces, the proper civilian leadership in the Pentagon will be vital to defend the homeland and protect U.S. interests and allies abroad.
Yesterday, I joined Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in conducting the confirmation hearing of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. The Department of Defense (DOD) and our Armed Forces have always maintained an apolitical stance, and nothing should be more bipartisan than national defense and caring for our service members. The position of Secretary of Defense should be held by an individual who will fight for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who fight every day to protect American interests at home and abroad.
Senator Hagel is a good man and a personal friend of mine. His service to America during the Vietnam War is unquestionable. While I believe he has good intentions, Senator Hagel continues to stand behind misguided policies, and I fear he would be a pawn in President Obama’s plan to disarm America, relinquish our role as a global leader, and give back American exceptionalism. I am a staunch supporter of Israel and Sen. Hagel’s statements about our close ally are troubling. In 2000, Hagel was just one of four Senators who refused to sign a letter affirming U.S. solidarity with Israel. Our continued support of Israel will be extremely important to maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East as U.S. forces in Afghanistan begin to drawdown and our long-term strategic initiative pivots to the Pacific.
As a sitting Senator, Hagel previously failed to take action against Iran. In 2001, Hagel was one of two Senators who voted against extending sanctions against Iran, and a year later he urged the Bush administration to support Iran’s membership into the World Trade Organization. Should the Senate confirm Hagel’s nomination, I fear he would again fail to take action against Iran if an attack on the U.S. or Israel is imminent. When answering questions yesterday, Hagel chuckled when I asked why the Iranian Foreign Minister supported his nomination. It may seem like a “gotcha” question, but I believe it encompasses the serious concerns I have of Hagel’s global view.
Also among my concerns for Senator Hagel is his participation in the Global Zero Movement: an initiative to eliminate all nuclear weapons throughout the world. As states like Iran and North Korea accelerate their efforts to develop deliverable nuclear weapons, our nuclear triad will continue to serve as a deterrent. Decreasing or eliminating the U.S.’s nuclear stockpile creates a nice sound bite, but rhetoric does not prevent hostile nations from carrying out attacks or cease their efforts to harm others, and, I believe, will lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons by nations that no longer feel they are covered under the United States’ nuclear umbrella.
It is my hope that you understand the extremely important role the Secretary of Defense plays in our national security, and appreciate my objections to Sen. Hagel’s nomination. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee as we work to avert sequestration and rebuild our forces after returning from over a decade at war.
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe