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Public Statements

Syria

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be our next Secretary of Defense. He is eminently qualified for the position and possesses an exemplary record of service to this country. I strongly believe that a President is entitled to his cabinet selections unless there is something in an individual's record or background that is disqualifying. And there is nothing in Senator Hagel's background that is disqualifying. He is a veteran, he has been a successful CEO, and he has served at highest levels of the legislative and executive branches.

I served with Senator Hagel during his two terms in the U.S. Senate--including his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2003-2008. I found him to be a knowledgeable and independent voice with a strong grasp of the pressing national security issues facing our country. Those of us who served with him know Senator Hagel's story well. His career began as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam where he served with distinction and earned two Purple Hearts. Indeed, as an enlisted man, he has seen the true costs of war. He understands that the use of military force should always be a last resort and should only be undertaken with a clear strategy, clear mission and the resources to get the job done. He understands that we have a solemn obligation to take care of our returning veterans and the families and loved ones of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. As we emerge from over 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that is the kind of leadership we need at the Department of Defense and, more importantly, that is the kind of leadership the men and women in uniform deserve. They will take pride in the fact that Senator Hagel will be the first enlisted man and the first Vietnam veteran to head the Department.

Chuck also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the USO and as the Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration, where he fought to ensure that our veterans received the benefits they earned, including assistance for those suffering from Agent Orange. He then went on to the private sector where he co-founded VANGUARD Cellular Systems, a leading cellular carrier in the U.S. Most recently, he co-chaired the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.

Now, it is no secret that Senator Hagel has his critics, but let us take a closer look at who has endorsed his nomination.

A bi-partisan group of 13 former Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, and National Security Advisors from the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations sent a letter to the Senate expressing their support for Senator Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense arguing that he is ``uniquely qualified to meet the challenges facing the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform.'' They continued:

Our extensive experience working with Senator Hagel over the years has left us confident that he has the necessary background to succeed in the job of leading the largest federal agency.

He has also received endorsements from 11 senior retired military leaders, over fifty Ambassadors and statesmen, and numerous veterans' organizations. A group of ten former U.S. Ambassadors--including four former Ambassadors to Israel--argued that:

We can think of few more qualified, more non-partisan, more courageous or better equipped to head the Department of Defense at this critical moment in strengthening America's role in the world.

The group of retired Generals and Admirals from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy--including General Anthony Zinni, General Brent Scowcroft, and Admiral William Fallon--went even further. In an open letter, they argued that Senator Hagel ``would be a strong leader'' as the next Pentagon chief and that he's ``eminently qualified for the job.'' But, more importantly, they believe that he understands the challenges that our warfighters face and is the person who can best lead the Pentagon.

And, even with all the accusations about Senator Hagel's views on Israel, Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that ``[Senator Hagel] certainly regards Israel as a true and natural U.S. ally.''

Clearly, those of us here in the Senate who support Senator Hagel's nomination are not alone in believing he will make a fine Secretary of Defense and will serve our nation, once again, with distinction.

Make no mistake, difficult challenges lie ahead. We are transitioning out of Afghanistan, but its future remains uncertain, and the threat of global terror endures, particularly in North Africa. We are on the verge of seeing massive cuts to the Pentagon's budget due to sequestration, which will negatively impact readiness and the defense industrial base. The nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea move forward, and new tests and provocations continue, including in areas such as cybersecurity.

In my view, Senator Hagel has the insight, experience, and know-how to take on this daunting agenda and help protect American lives and U.S. national security interests. I look forward to supporting his nomination as the next Secretary of Defense, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

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