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Public Statements

Hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services - Confirmation Hearing of the Nomination of the Honorable Charles T. Hagel

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Chairman LEVIN. Thank you, Senator Wicker.
Senator Hagan.

Senator HAGAN. Thank you. Senator Hagel, thank you for being
here. Thank you for your service to our country
and 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 have been involved
in a similar set of issues facing veterans stationed at Camp
LaJeune. 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 in looking into this has been long. It has
been drawn out, and the recognition that men, women, and children
were dying or going broke 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 have been fighting for answers with a group of other committed
senators on a bipartisan basis. And along the way progress
has been 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?

Senator 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 the 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 to serve this
country. And I am committed to that, and we will have further conversations.

Senator 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
United States 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 United States 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?

Senator 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 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.

Senator 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 100,000 active duty
servicemembers 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 do not 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 and areas in
our national defense.
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 am particularly interested
in your thoughts. You were commenting earlier to Senator
Udall's questions 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 servicemembers and their families at home and
abroad, and in particular the cuts--the sequestration, how would
this impact areas such as cyber security and the other areas?

Senator HAGEL. Well, first, as we have said this morning and you
know, the Chiefs have made very clear and 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 charged with national security in our
country, it is very dangerous. Readiness is obviously the number
one priority, and we will continue to do that. The Chiefs have already
started to work through this, and I think in some of the public
statements they have made, we are preparing for that. They will
be prepared. If in the event the sequestration does take effect, we
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 is going to be difficult,
and it is going to affect longer-term kinds of planning.
But make no mistake, if this happens, this is going to be a severe
problem.

Senator HAGAN. My time is up. Thank you for your comments.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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