Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

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


Location: Washington, DC


Chairman LEVIN. Thank you, Senator Nelson.
Senator Sessions.

Senator SESSIONS. Thank you. Senator Hagel, it is great to have
you with us and to have this hearing and an opportunity to discuss
important issues. I admire your service to your country, and your
combat experience is something we all honor and respect.
I have been for the most part chairman, ranking member, or
member of the Strategic Subcommittee of this Senate Armed Services
Committee for the time I have been in the Senate. We came
together. And so I have had some experience and knowledge about
the great debates involving nuclear weapons and national security.
I believe the Secretary of Defense should be the core, the rock solid
person, for defense of America. I believe he should project an image
of solidity and steadfastness that the whole world and American
people can depend on.
And I am more than a little troubled by the report that you participated
in--Global Zero report that calls for the total elimination
of nuclear weapons, and clearly suggests that is an achievable goal
in a realistic period of time, although certainly not immediately.
And your report writers defend you. They have issued an article
defending you and the report that was just issued last year. And
they protest mightily and say that, quote, ""Chuck Hagel and Global
Zero's views on nuclear weapons in the national security interests
and squarely in the mainstream.''
Indeed, your defendants insist you are in the main steam because
your position is that of President Obama's, and dramatically
they assert you are out of the mainstream if you believe otherwise.
So your report explicitly calls for, quote, ""an urgent and transformational
change in the U.S. nuclear force structure, strategy,
and posture,'' closed quote. I think it is a rather exceedingly dramatic
report frankly.
Now, specifically as to the historic nuclear force triad that has
been the bedrock of our defense policy for half a century, you report
calls for bilaterally or unilaterally totally eliminating the ICBM
triad leg. In fact, the report refers to itself as a dyad instead of a
triad report. And you propose eliminating the 75 nuclear B--52
bombers entirely, leaving only 18 B--2 bombers, reducing nuclear
submarines from 14 to 10.
Further, the committee report that you were one of the five members
that produced it, you favor eliminating all tactical nuclear
weapons, de-alerting all weapons, and according to the report as I
read it, that would mean it would take from one to three days to
place a weapon on alert. And so I certainly agree that that would
be a transformational change in our nuclear force structure, strategy,
and posture. And I think it is a big historic thing.
Now, General Kaylor, the present commander of the U.S. Strategic
Command and Secretary of Air Force Mike Donnelly do not
agree with the recommendations in this report, people you will supervise.
General Kaylor told the press on August 8th last year, ""I
do not support the former vice chairman,'' and that is General
Cartwright. ""I do not think that we are in a place he suggests now,
nor do I see that particular place any time soon.'' So you will be
supervising him.
Would you share with us where you are today on that issue? Do
you support the view of General Kaylor, or do you support the view
of the commission report that you signed?

Senator HAGEL. Thank you, Senator. Let me first correct some of
your interpretation of what the Global Zero report was, and is, and
what it actually said.
First, it did not propose or call for anything. It was, in fact--the
word specifically used at the front end of that report was ""illustrative,''
proposing nothing, but laying out different scenarios, and
possibilities, and schedules. But here is the key part of all this.
And by the way, this was summarized in a letter to President
Obama in 2009. Bilateral, never unilateral. Nothing was ever suggested
on a unilateral basis to take down our arsenal. Negotiated,
verifiable. These are all terms that were in the report.
As Senator Nunn said in his opening statement, and I have alluded
generally to this, the mainstream thinking of most Presidents
we have had the last 65 years, and I go back to Ronald Reagan's
comments as Senator Nunn quoted, was reduction of nuclear
weapons for the obvious reasons. That is why we have engaged in
treaties to reduce nuclear weapons. Those were not unilateral arrangements,
those were bilateral arrangements.
The United States and the Russians, as you know, have about
90 percent of the nuclear in this--in the world today. Now there
are others who have them. There are nine nuclear powers, dangerous.
Obviously the so-called loose nukes or non-state actors, terrorist
groups getting a hold of these are threats.

Senator SESSIONS. But, Senator Hagel, I think----

Senator HAGEL. I just want to make sure that is clear.

Senator SESSIONS. I know, but it is not clear in your report. The
report says, quote, on page 1, ""These steps could be taken with
Russia in unison through reciprocal presidential directives, negotiated
in another round of bilateral arms reductions, or in implemented
unilateral.'' A little further on----

Senator HAGEL. Well, that is not proposing.

Senator SESSIONS.--it says it two more times in this report that
these ideas could be a--less good approach would be to adopt this
agenda unilaterally. It suggests that it should be adopted. That
would not be as good, but you would do so. And there is another
reference to that. And it does call for these reductions. In your conclusion,
you say, ""The United States should seek to achieve such
reductions in 10 years and plan to base its arsenal on a dyad of
nuclear delivery vehicles.''
You go on to say, Trident missile submarines--the optimal mix
would consist of 10 Trident submarines and 18 B--2 bombers, the
normal conditions it would have for the warhead stockpile would
be deployed on these carriers. The other half would be kept in reserve.
All land-based intercontinental missiles armed with nuclear
payloads would be retired, along with carriers of non-strategic nuclear
warheads, all of which would be eliminated. That is the tactical
nuclear weapons, all of which would be eliminated from the
stockpile. B--52 bombers would be completely dismantled or converted
to carry only conventional weapons.
I do not believe that is consistent with the policy of the country
as a whole. We got--I supported legislation to create a bipartisan
commission several years ago to help us--Senator Levin and others
supported that. The House supported it, and it passed--to help s
determine how much further we can continue to draw down our
nuclear weapons. It was chaired by William Perry, the Secretary
of Defense under Carter, James Schlesinger, who served in the
Carter and Nixon cabinets. It had John Glenn on it, Martin
Halperin, Lee Hamilton, James Woolsey, Keith Paine, and others.
They had access to the Defense Department secret documents and
information, and they came out with quite a different view.
Let me just point out some of the things that they came up with.
They said, maintain the triad. They said maintain tactical nuclear
weapons. They recommended no change in the alert statute, and,
in fact, the Defense Department's nuclear posture review under
President Obama and Secretary Gates, explicitly found the alert
status should not be altered in their review of nuclear weapons.
And they fundamentally found a need for nuclear weapons. That is
the point. And your commission basically said that it undermines
the request for nuclear weapons.
And I just--I will give you a chance to respond. On Global Zero,
they sort of I think foresaw this argument. Before your report was
issued, they said this, ""The conditions that might make possible
the global elimination of nuclear weapons are not present today.
And their creation would require a fundamental transformation of
the world political order,''
That is a very strong statement, and I think it was aimed at this
idea that is practical and realistic for us to expect that the world
is going to move to zero nuclear weapons.
So first, I want to ask you one question that you told me in our
meeting that I appreciated. President Obama stated when we did
the New START Treaty discussion, and vote, and debate, ""I intend
to modernize or replace the triad of strategy nuclear systems, a
heavy bomber, and air launch cruise missile, and ICBM, and nuclear-
powered ballistic missile submarine.''
And he committed to, quote, ""accelerate the design of the CMRR
and the UPF''--those are the two buildings where our modernizations
would take place--""and request full funding for those
So first, let me ask you, would you support that vision and commitment
the President made?

Senator HAGEL. Well, absolutely I do, and----

Senator SESSIONS. And then you are free to respond to what I
was saying. But I really do feel that--I am uneasy about this vision
expressed in that committee report of yours.

Senator HAGEL. Well, let me just briefly come back to what you
said, Senator, and I appreciate you giving me a chance to respond.
First, my record has always been very clear, everything I have
voted on in my career in the Senate and wherever I have been. A
strong, agile, safe, secure, effective, nuclear arsenal for the United
States is not debatable. I voted that way. I believe that. You know
that the home of the Strategic Command is now in Senator
Fischer's State, which used to be the State I represented or I used
to be in that State as a senator. It has not changed.
I know a little something about it, not as much as you and others
on the committee, but I have been to that facility many times. I
know General Kaylor very well, know all the STRATCOM commanders
very well. And you know what the motto of STRATCOM
is. It is a pretty significant motto. ""Peace is our business.''
And what has kept the peace, as I noted in my opening statement
as much as anything else in the world since World War II,
is that nuclear deterrent. This prospective, Secretary of Defense,
would never do anything or in any way take any action that would
minimize, or harm, or downgrade that reality. But again, I go back
to--no to get caught up in this report. This report was about illustrative
possibilities--what could things--how could things be done.
Always, always bilateral. Always verifiable. Always negotiable, just
as we have always done in our treaties.
So I will stop there. That is the commitment I make to you. I
made it to the President. My record is clear on that.

Chairman LEVIN. Thank you. I think we have to move on.

Senator SESSIONS. Well, just thank you. And I would just say the
vision stated in your Global Zero report, I believe, is likely to create
instability rather than confidence and stability, create uncertainty
in the world among our allies and our potential adversaries. And
I do not believe it would meet the goal that you said not to weaken
our ability.
So I am troubled that--I feel--I appreciate your comments today,
but I am troubled by the language in that report.


Chairman LEVIN. Thank you, Senator Manchin.
Senator Sessions.

Senator SESSIONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Senator Hagel. You're holding up well. But it's
an important office and you're asked to lead our Defense Department.
I know you know the seriousness of that and it's exceedingly
You have to know, and particularly in recent years, there has
been tension in Congress between the executive and Congress over
a number of issues. One of them is national missile defense, and
that's a subcommittee I'm a member of and we've wrestled with
that over the years, and had pretty consistently a bipartisan Congressional
vote on those issues. We voted again this year a unanimous
Armed Services defense authorization bill, unanimous out of
committee, under Chairman Levin's leadership and Senator
But I'm looking today, I believe the National Journal, the Obama
administration is moving to begin new U.S.-Russian talks on further
drawdowns of the Nation's nuclear arsenal. That's also been
an issue of concern, but I believe we've been staying fairly bipartisan
and unified on that.
But your report is what causes a great deal of concern, this study
of the Global Zero group. But I just note that Vice President Biden
is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this
weekend during the Munich security conference. National Security
Advisor Ton Donilon will then head to Moscow in February. President
Obama and then-President Medvedev signed the bilateral
New START Treaty in 2010 calling for deployment of strategic nuclear
arsenals involving 700 delivery systems.
Now, as I read the Global Zero report that you co-authored just
last year, less than a year ago, you call for the elimination of all
ICBMs, all tactical nuclear weapons, most of the bombers, I think
67 B--52s eliminated, leaving only 18 bombers and 10 submarines.
So instead of 700 delivery systems that was part of the New
STARt, it looks like you're down to about 28 delivery systems. So
this is a dramatic--introduced dramatic concern.
There are worries on Capitol Hill, the National Journal reports,
that the administration could revise its missile shield strategy or
go ahead with cutbacks to the U.S. stockpile as a means of drawing
Russia into new negotiations. Foreign Policy Magazine reported
ahead of your unannounced discussions with Lavrov, House committee
chairman, subcommittee chairman, Mike Rogers asked that
they have assurance as to what's going on there, essentially.
I would note that the last year's defense authorization bill calls
for briefings on these discussions to the Congress, to the Armed
Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. It says
""Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this act
and not less than twice each year thereafter, the President or the
President's designee shall brief the Committee on Foreign Relations
and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate on the
dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation on
issues related to limits or controls on nuclear arms, missile defense
systems, and long-range conventional strike systems.'' The deadline
I believe for that briefing would be March 2 this year.
So a first question to you: If you're confirmed in this position,
will you honor that request as part of the NDAA?

Senator HAGEL. The request for the briefing?

Senator SESSIONS. Briefings, yes, the requirements for the briefings.
Will you keep the Congress advised on any discussions dealing
with national missile defense and dialogue with Russia on national
missile defense and nuclear arms and long-range conventional
strike systems?

Senator HAGEL. Yes, I commit to do that.

Senator SESSIONS. Also, there's a sense of Congress on certain
agreements: ""It is the sense of Congress that any agreement between
the United States and the Russian Federation related to nuclear
arms or missile defense systems or long-range conventional
strike systems, obligating the United States to reduce or limit
armed forces or armaments of the United States in any militarily
significant manner may be made only pursuant to the treat-making
power of the President as set forth in Article II, Section 2, Clause
2, of the Constitution of the United States.''
That is a sense of our Congress that any significant alteration of
those deeply important relation between our two nations, the two
most powerful nuclear nations in the world, would be done by treaty.
Will you support that concept and before making significant
changes present those changes to the Congress pursuant to a treaty,
and not as a either secret or open bilateral agreement?

Senator HAGEL. So your question is will I commit to a briefing
on all this?

Senator SESSIONS. No. Whether or not that any significant
changes that would occur in our relationship on those issues, significant--""
in any militarily significant manner may be made only
pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President.'' And we
would ask that that be presented to this Congress because we have
treaties already that impact so much of this and Congress believes
that any changes should also be made by treaty.

Senator HAGEL. Well, without getting into specifics of it, let me
just commit to obviously consultation with Congress, with the authorizing
committee, yes.

Senator SESSIONS. Well, it seems like we've not been consulted
on the Biden trip and the Donilon trip. We expect that to be done.
What's been going on is disturbing to us. The President said, you
know, to Mr. Medvedev, that we'll have more flexibility after the
election, and he was clearly responding to these issues, missile defense
I think in particular and maybe nuclear issues also. He
wasn't consulting with the American people, wasn't telling us or
the Congress what he planned to do, but he was apparently willing
to discuss it with the Russian leaders.
So I guess I'm asking you, will you comply with the treaty-making
matters? If these agreements are significant militarily, I believe
they should be done by treaty and not by personal agreements between
our two leaders.

Senator HAGEL. Well, I would commit to fulfilling any treaty obligations
and any commitments to Congress and any consultations
that Congress needs to be part of, absolutely.

Senator SESSIONS. Well, I'm not sure that answered the question,
because the Congress is concerned about these kind of negotiations
that are going on. We do not have--the President also has made
it clear he believes in zero nuclear weapons. That is his policy for
America. I think it's utterly unrealistic. It's just amazing to me.
And that could lead us into unwise decisionmaking.
And Congress has a responsibility to the American people to ensure
the national defense. We need to know and have you share
those negotiations with us, and changes that impact our security
relationships between us and Russia should be done by treaty, as
they've been done in the past.

Senator HAGEL. I've never discussed any of the specifics of this
with the President. I know he knows and believes and is committed
to treaties. That's the purview
of the United States Senate, as the Senate passed the New
START Treaty. All that goes into that negotiation with in this particular
case Russia, certainly the Congress has to be involved in

Senator SESSIONS. That's very important, Senator Hagel, I just
have to tell you, because there's unease here that that may not be
in the works. There's been some discussion for some time about private
unilateral or bilateral negotiations in which Congress is not
involved, that impacts the national security of our country. That's
why this was passed, just passed. So we expect you to comply with
that, and I take your testimony that you would comply with that.

Senator HAGEL. I will comply with all requirements and laws,

Senator SESSIONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top