U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released the following statement on his decision to support Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense:
"Since the President nominated Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense, I have studied the Senator's record and examined concerns raised by many respected defense and foreign policy experts. I engaged closely with constituents in my state and leaders in the pro-Israel community. I met with the Senator to discuss his nomination and press him on host of security issues including Iran, the U.S. relationship with Israel, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this meeting, I received important assurances on his views with respect to U.S. policy on Iran and Israel. On the basis of this process, I have decided to support his confirmation to serve as Secretary of Defense.
Senator Hagel honorably served his country in Vietnam as a combat veteran and recipient of two purple hearts. His experience on the front lines as an enlisted soldier will serve him well as he represents the interests of our service members and their families. Moreover, our country needs someone with his experience at the table as our leadership makes decisions on whether to send our troops into battle.
In the time that I served with him in the Senate, I found Senator Hagel to be a person of integrity. He is a straight shooter and someone who is capable of making of the tough decisions necessary to address the long-term budget challenges at the Pentagon.
There have been some concerns about Senator Hagel's record on Israel and Iran. I received assurances from the Senator on these critical national security issues. In my meeting with him, Senator Hagel was very forthcoming and clearly stated that he supports strong sanctions on Iran and that no option should be taken off the table with respect to addressing its nuclear weapons program. He understands that the times have changed since his tenure in the Senate. He recognizes the importance of pressuring Iran through sanctions to seriously engage in negotiations on its nuclear program. Iran should have no doubt about the resolve of this Administration when it comes to preventing it from getting a nuclear weapon.
In our meeting, Senator Hagel said that he is deeply committed to our strong relationship with the state of Israel. He has always supported the Qualitative Military Edge for Israel. He has supported additional funding in support of the Iron Dome defense system on top of the U.S. security assistance package to Israel of $3.1 billion. He also supports the Arrow missile and David's Sling defense systems and sees them in the interest of the United States and Israel. Senator Hagel has made public and private commitments on these issues which I expect he will fulfill if confirmed to serve in this critical post.
Our military has served honorably and shown extraordinary resolve in meeting our security challenges since 9/11. Having served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Senator Hagel acutely understands the threats against the United States. Many challenges remain in South Asia and across North Africa as extremist elements continue to attack American security interests. As we responsibly wind down our presence in Afghanistan, while dealing with existing security challenges, we need leaders like Chuck Hagel with experience and a clear vision for how the U.S. can and should meet its security obligations."