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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 Graham.
We now will go to Senator Blumenthal.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. 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
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 state of Israel. And if it is 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 have said and what you have done
in the past are entirely appropriate, and I think also reconsidering
or your views evolving is also appropriate.
And I am going to be submitting questions on some of the topics
that you have 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 have 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,
and 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 PST, at a time PST 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 PST or related kinds of injuries.

Senator HAGEL. 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.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. Thank you.
And I would like the same kind of commitment that you have 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 have seen an excellent documentary called ""The
Invisible War?″

Senator HAGEL. Yes.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. And I know you are familiar with this
issue. I commend you for what you have 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 victim's 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?

Senator HAGEL. Absolutely, I will commit to that, yes.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. Thank you.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.

Senator 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
we 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.

Senator HAGEL. On that issue, I would want to talk with our
chief, our Chief of Naval Operations, 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
will give you that commitment.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. I am sure you know that the Ohio-class
replacement program is really the cornerstone of our nuclear deterrence.

Senator HAGEL. I do.

Senator 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.

Senator HAGEL. I will. You and I will be discussing this, I am
sure, many times if I am confirmed. So thank you.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. Thank you.
Going to the Virginia-class submarines, the next multiyear purchase,
known as Block IV, envisions 10 submarines. There is 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 National 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.

Senator HAGEL. Senator, I will commit to what we have committed
to to carry out what we need to fund and develop and build
in order to maintain the kind of modern Navy we are going to require.
Those submarines, as you note, are cornerstones to that security.

Senator 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, the 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 am 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 roadblock to enforcement of Section 841.
I am 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 nondefense dollars, and I
hope that we can have your commitment as well to work with us
on that area.

Senator HAGEL. You have my commitment, and I will enthusiastically
work with you on this area.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. Thank you.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.

Senator BLUMENTHAL. I appreciate your frank and forthright answers,
and I don't know whether I will 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.
Thank you.

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