[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), President Pro Tem of the Senate, is the most senior member of the Pentagon's budget committee -- the Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee -- and chairs the Senate National Guard Caucus. He also heads one of the Senate's two committees with responsibility in U.S. foreign affairs and overseas operations, the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations. Leahy and former Senator Chuck Hagel, the President's nominee to head the Department of Defense, met Thursday in Leahy's Senate office.]
I have known Chuck Hagel for many years. We have traveled to war zones together and have worked together across the aisle on the nation's security and foreign policy challenges and opportunities. I know his sense of integrity and his great knowledge of our defense and foreign policies. He knows about national defense from the ground up and from his own deeply personal experience -- he still carries the wounds of war. The fact that he would be the first enlisted service member to head the Pentagon is significant, and it is timely. He is a superb and highly qualified choice to head the Department of Defense.