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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. We will come back to order.
Senator Ayotte.

Senator AYOTTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you, Senator Hagel, for your service to our country
and for being here today in this important hearing, and I want
to thank your family as well.
Senator Hagel, I think we have established, as I understand it
from the prior questions you have been asked, in July of 2001, you
were one of only two Senators to vote against extending the Iran
Sanctions Act, the sanctions in that act. That is a vote that you
have agreed that you have taken. Correct?

Senator HAGEL. Yes.

Senator AYOTTE. Yes or no? Yes. And that was when you were
only one of two Senators in the entire Senate to vote against that.
Also, in 2008, I believe you were asked you were again one of two
Senators within the Senate Banking Committee, though, not the
entire Senate, to vote against the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions
Accountability Act of 2008. Is that right?

Senator HAGEL. That is right.

Senator AYOTTE. Okay. Thank you.

Senator HAGEL. Yes. I am sorry. Yes.

Senator AYOTTE. Yes, thank you, Senator.
As I understand it, on October 2nd of 2008, Majority Leader
Harry Reid brought a similar bill to the floor. In fact, it was called
the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability Act of 2008, and
he brought it to the floor on October 2nd of 2008. There have been
media reports that you blocked unanimous consent for the consideration
of that bill. Are those true or not?

Senator HAGEL. I was one of some Republican Senators who did
not want that vote to go forward. I voted against it in the subcommittee,
and the reason I did was because the Bush administration
did not want that bill to go forward.
The reason that they didn't is because they were involved in negotiations
with the Russians in the U.N. and Security Council
members to put multilateral sanctions on Iran.

Senator AYOTTE. Thank you.
But just to be clear, you did block unanimous consent of that bill
in 2008?

Senator HAGEL. I was part of an effort, yes. That is right.

Senator AYOTTE. Okay. Thank you.
And also, you know, would it surprise you that an earlier version
of that sanctions bill was actually cosponsored by Secretary Kerry,
Secretary Clinton, and President Obama at the time? You were not
a cosponsor. Would that surprise you?

Senator HAGEL. Well, no, not necessarily. I didn't ever base my
votes, Senator, on what everybody else thought or did. I voted
based on what I thought was right.

Senator AYOTTE. And also, we, of course, the sanctions that are
in place now, that bill or its next generation
passed the United States Senate after you left in a vote of 99 to
0, and no one in the Senate, in fact, voted against that. So that has
been our clear policy of the bill, really the next generation of the
bill that you blocked in the Senate.
I want to ask you also about your position with respect to involvement
in the Global Zero. I know many people have asked you
questions about this.

Senator HAGEL. Mm-hmm.

Senator AYOTTE. Here is what is troubling me. You have testified
before this committee today that you have never been for unilateral
nuclear disarmament. In other words, unilateral actions by the
United States of America. Yet this report itself, which you call an
illustration, its illustration or recommendation or however you
want to frame it, is to actually--there are many recommendations
in it.
One of them is to eliminate a leg of our triad, which is the landbased
ICBMs. You would agree with that? That is the illustration
that is contained in this report, or you call it an illustration. Is that

Senator HAGEL. Well, I call it an illustration, Senator, because
that is the term it used at the front end of the report.

Senator AYOTTE. Well, let us----

Senator HAGEL. Not a recommendation.

Senator AYOTTE. Well, let me talk about the other terms that
this report uses because this report twice, as Senator Sessions
asked you, on page 1 and on page 16 says that the illustrations or
this example given in this report, one of which is eliminating a leg
of our triad, nuclear triad, could be implemented unilaterally.
So here is what I am struggling with. Why would you ever put
your name on a report that is inherently inconsistent with what
you are telling us today is that you have never been for unilateral
disarmament as a possibility?

Senator HAGEL. Well, it is not inconsistent, I don't believe, Senator.
But you used the term ""could.'' That is a pretty important operative
word in the report.
The report does not recommend we do these things. The report
says ""could,'' ""illustrative,'' ""scenarios,'' ""possibilities.'' And you
probably know the four other individuals who were involved in that
report, mainly General Cartwright, former strategic commander

Senator AYOTTE. And Senator Hagel, I know we don't have a lot
of time here. I don't dispute the qualifications or the service of the
prior individuals, the other individuals that are involved in this report.
But of all the illustrations and of all the ""coulds'' you could
pick, this report says that the President could implement these
unilaterally, although that is inconsistent with what you say is
your position. Yet you signed off on this.
This report also says of all the illustrations you could have
picked, the illustration is eliminating a leg of our nuclear triad. So
one thing that troubles me is that of all the things that this group
could have picked as what you call an illustration is a significant
reduction in our nuclear deterrent.
So, to me, I view that as troubling and inconsistent. And one
thing I would hope you wouldn't do as Secretary of Defense is to
put--to sign off on a report that would say something like unilateral,
like this one does, that could be implemented unilaterally that
is different than your philosophy or our policy.

Senator HAGEL. Well, as Secretary of Defense, I won't be signing
off on reports in the same way as a private citizen. Obviously, I
will have a different kind of responsibility if I am confirmed by the
But I don't think that there is anything that also changes my position
in that report because it was a letter sent, which you may
have, to the President of the United States--

Senator AYOTTE. Just so--just so we are clear, and I am not--
I don't want to interrupt you, but just we don't have a lot of time.
Just so we are clear, you don't view what you are telling us today
and the language in this report as inconsistent?

Senator HAGEL. I do not because it wasn't a recommendation.
The report also says and the authors of it says, have always said,
none of this can be any reductions unilateral, just like any strategic
arms reduction treaty that we have signed, both Republican and
Democrats have led on that, has to be bilateral, has to be
verifiable, has to be negotiated.
I have always been there, and that is where we have been on
this report.

Senator AYOTTE. Okay. Thank you.
May I follow up on the discussion about containment, nuclear
containment with Iran? And I wanted to--there seemed to be--first
question I would have, as you said very clearly to Senator Levin,
that you believe that a military option should be on the table with
respect to Iran. In fact, I think you said, ""I do, I have, and I strongly
agree'' in terms of that being one of the options the President
of the United States would have in addressing Iran is the language
that you said.

Senator HAGEL. Mm-hmm.

Senator AYOTTE. Can you help me understand when you went to
Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2006, you said at that time that a military
strike against Iran, a military option is not a viable, feasible, or responsible
option. And it strikes me as that what you are saying
about the military option now and even seems inconsistent with
that statement.
And why would you make that statement in Pakistan that it is
not a viable, feasible, or responsible option in light of your statement
today that you do, ""I have, and I strongly agree'' that a military
option should be on the table?

Senator HAGEL. That statement was made in the context of all
options regarding Iran, and Pakistan was where I was at the time.
And the larger context of that was nuclear powers, which certainly
Pakistan is part of that club.
And not unlike what Secretary Gates said about a strike on Iran,
my point was that this would not be a preferable option. There
would be consequences to this option. Things would happen as a result
of it.
If we could find a better option, a better way to deal with Iran
to assure they do not get nuclear weapons, then we are far better
off. That was the context of that statement.

Senator AYOTTE. Senator Hagel, I know that my time is up, and
I know we will have an opportunity for a second round of questions.
But as I see your quote, it didn't say preferable option. It
said it was not a responsible option. And I view those words as
having a very different meaning.
So I look forward to following up in the subsequent round of
questioning. Thank you.


Senator KING [presiding]. In the absence of the chairman, Senator
Ayotte, I believe it's your opportunity.

Senator AYOTTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator KING. Wow, that was fast.

Senator AYOTTE. You've been promoted very quickly.

Senator KING. Really, that's astounding. [Laughter.]

Senator AYOTTE. First of all, we've all expressed our deep respect
for your service to our country, but also let me thank you for your
endurance. We appreciate it.
I wanted to ask you about a speech that you made in 2007. It
was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and it
was a speech entitled ""The United States and Iran at Dangerous
Crossroads.'' In that speech you, in referring to Iran, you said that
""the strategy of containment remains relevant today.''
So I wanted to ask you about that statement that you made in
2007 about ""the strategy of containment remains relevant'' with regard
to Iran today. Now, that was in 2007, but why would you say
that, first of all? And then, isn't that inconsistent with what you've
been saying today with regard to containment?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I don't have the speech in front of me and
I think there was more to it than just that few words that you
quoted. If I recall, the entire speech was about how do we deal with
Iran. If I recall, what I was inventorying in specific reference to
containment was within that inventory what are the options. I
don't think that speech says that I support it.

Senator AYOTTE. No, but you said that it was relevant to the discussion
with Iran, and I guess I would ask you to say why do you
think that that was a strategy that we should have considered? It
was obviously one of the things you mentioned.

Senator HAGEL. Well, I didn't say it was a strategy, I don't think.
As I said, in the context of how do we deal with--

Senator AYOTTE. I don't want to be unfair, but I think, just to
be clear, the quote that you said was ""The strategy of containment
remains relevant.'' So why is it relevant with regard to Iran?

Senator HAGEL. The bigger point is what I was saying, I think--
I haven't looked at that speech since I gave it, probably, but I do
recall some of it. And the point was, what is the range of options
that we would have to look at, the world would look at. Again, I
didn't advocate it, I didn't recommend it, I didn't support it.

Senator AYOTTE. Was it that containment was one of the options?

Senator HAGEL. Yes. I mean, of course. When you look at the
whole range of what your options are, that certainly would be one
of them.

Senator AYOTTE. Do you think containment's one of the options

Senator HAGEL. No, I don't know. But it doesn't make any difference
what I think. It's when you look at range, it's like the Global
Zero. That was not a recommendation report. That was a range
of goals, aspirations, possibilities. That wasn't in any way--that report
never said we recommend the following. If I recall that speech,
I think that was the same kind of what's the range of options.

Senator AYOTTE. Senator, I want to be clear: It does matter what
you think, and obviously your understanding and thought process
on these issues is very important to us. So as a follow-up, I know
that Senator Vitter had asked you about a portion of the book that
you wrote, ""America, Our Next Chapter,'' and it was in that book
you had said that ""The genie of nuclear armaments is already out
of the bottom no matter what Iran does.'' Obviously, North Korea,
other powers. ""In this imperfect world, sovereign nation states possession
nuclear weapons capability, as opposed to stateless terrorist
groups, will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at
least sane, behavior.''
Do you believe that Iran responds or will respond with some degree
of responsible or sane behavior?

Senator HAGEL. Well, first of all, it's not what I suggested in that
quote, as you know.

Senator AYOTTE. Well, it's in the context of Iran, but I'm asking
you just straightforwardly: Do you think that the Iranian regime
responds--you talked about the difference between nation states
versus, for example, stateless terrorist organizations. Do you believe,
in the context of Iran, do you believe that the Iranian regime
responds with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior,
or will respond like that?

Senator HAGEL. Well, so far they have not, and I have said, as
you know, and I've said in that same book that you're quoting from,
that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I've said that many times.
So no is the answer to your question.

Senator AYOTTE. So if they're not responding--I mean, they
haven't been responding with a level of, with a degree of responsible
or sane behavior and, as you say in your book, that it's a state
sponsor of terrorism, I'm also struggling with the question of why
you would have thought that it was appropriate for us to have direct,
unconditional talks with Iran, because here we have a regime
that doesn't respond in a responsible or sane behavior, is a state
sponsor of terrorism, and what we thought we could--why that
would be an appropriate manner for us to address them?

Senator HAGEL. Well, first, I said ""engagement.'' I think we
should talk. We actually are indirectly in the P5 Plus 1. We have
been. I think that's responsible. I think it's always responsible to
try to talk first.
North Korea, I don't think that--I don't consider North Korea a
responsible, sane administration, but we are talking to North
Korea. We've been talking bilaterally to North Korea. We're talking
with the Party of 6 to North Korea. I think that's wise. I think it's
always wise to try to talk to people before you get into war.

Senator AYOTTE. But I think that you were not just--you were
beyond the P5. You refer to direct discussions with our two countries,
and also for establishing diplomatic ties with our country.

Senator HAGEL. Well, again, when I talked about the possibility
of diplomatic ties or even I said, I think, in 2002 encouraging Iran
to join the WTO, I've always thought that that's smarter more
wiser, if you can push, help push, institutions like China into world
bodies, because when they go into world bodies they have to comply
with some semblance of international behavior. It doesn't mean
they always will. They won't. They cheat. But I think we're smarter
to do that.
I've never--Senator, I've never thought engagement is weakness.
I never thought it was surrender. I never thought it was appeasement.
I think it's clearly in our interest. If that doesn't work, then
I think the President's position and his strategy has been exactly
right: Get the United Nations behind you, get the international
sanctions behind you, keep military options on the table. If the
military option is the only option, it's the only option.

Senator AYOTTE. Just to be clear, I don't think that all engagement
is weakness, either. But I think there's a huge distinction
when we're dealing with a regime that is the largest state sponsor
of terrorism, and given the fact that they have a long history, including
in Iraq, with assisting the militias to murder our troops,
including what they've done with Hezbollah and Hamas, what
they're doing now in Syria. So I think there's always a distinction
in how we deal with different players around the world, is my
I know that my time has expired and I will submit for the record
questions that I think are very important about the VIRGINIA-class
submarine. I share the important work done at the Portsmouth
Naval Shipyard with my colleagues Senator Jeanne Shaheen and
also I know Senator King is very focused on that, and maintaining
our submarine fleet. I know that Senator Blumenthal asked you
about that as well.
I do have concerns that part of the Global Zero report does recommend
that the Ohio-class submarine would actually be diminished
down to 10. So I'll follow up with those questions and the
record. I have to go now. Thank you.

Senator HAGEL. I'd be glad to respond. Thank you.


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