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


Location: Washington, DC


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

Senator MANCHIN. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Senator Hagel, thank you so much and your family for your
service and for putting your services on the line for us. I appreciate
it very much.
And I would like to say this. You and I have not known each
other before. I never had the pleasure of serving with you, which
I which I would have. And we had a great conversation. You bring
a breath of fresh air, truly a breath of fresh air to this process in
a bipartisan way. Having two great Senators sitting by your side--
one a Democrat, one a Republican--that basically support you
wholeheartedly speaks volumes in the toxic process that we have
With that being said, also everyone has been so fixated on your
past, what you have said, and I think I have come to learn in the
very short time I have been a Senator that this town and this process
and this body has become almost a guilt by conversation. With
that being said, I respect you being the person being able to say
what you thought needed to be said. You voted the way you
thought you should be voting for your constituents and your country,
and you weren't really driven by your party or by any pressure
I can't tell you how much I wish I would have served with you.
Sometime I feel very lonely.
With all that being said, sir, we are asked to consider you as a
part of a Cabinet. Is there anything that would lead us to believe
that you wouldn't follow the orders that were given?

Senator HAGEL. No. I understand clearly the responsibilities of
the Secretary of Defense. As I said in my opening statement, those
responsibilities are very serious. I don't know of many jobs that are
more serious, and I would obviously always make every decision for
the Defense Department and my advice to the President based on
only one thing, and that is the security of this country.

Senator MANCHIN. I looked back at your record. You and I come
from the same era. We are very close in age, and I remember the
Vietnam era very well. And that, I think, shaped all of us to a certain
extent of how we looked after, post-Vietnam, of how we would
have looked at it if we would have known what we knew before.
And I am sure that kind of guided you as you looked at this, the
Iraq, and I saw the information that we were given. If I had been
a Senator, probably I might have voted also, like many people that
were misled.
But after having seen 5 or 6 years of that unfortunate scenario
play out, the surge, and I know where you are coming from, would
you say that your experiences in Vietnam and looking at basically
what sometimes misguided--our misguided mission had been
shaped a lot of your positions today?

Senator HAGEL. Well, there is no question that as I have said
this morning, that my experience in Vietnam very much guided the
questions. I think I noted a couple of times in my opening statement
that it was one fundamental question that I always asked,
was the policy worthy of the men and women that we are asking
to make the sacrifices?
And I know there are differences of opinion. You mentioned Iraq.
You mentioned the surge. My positions there were very much guided
by, well, what is the political purpose--

Senator MANCHIN. Right.

Senator HAGEL.--of the surge? Where do we go from here? Yes,
there will be--you put 35,000 more American troops in an area for
a sustained period of time or more on top of more than 100,000 we
already had there, you will have a tactical victory. But there will
be a cost for that victory.
And that is what always guided me. Do we understand the costs?
Are we prepared to make those costs in lives? And then where was
the bigger answer here? Where were we going with the surge? How
was this going to take us, advance us to where we needed to go,
and where did we think we needed to go?
So, yes, those experiences did shape my questions.

Senator MANCHIN. And I appreciate that. Let me just say that
as speaking of now, what we deal with and the concerns that people
had had with your nomination, the support of Israel, I have no
doubt in my mind your support of Israel as our greatest ally and
would always be there. I think you have answered that. I think we
all feel very comfortable with that.
Also your commitment that Iran should not under any circumstance
have the ability to have a nuclear weapon, and I appreciate
that position very much.
Where we go with the strength of our Army if we have our military
might in the Department of Defense, the National Guard, how
does the National Guard play in your role of thinking of what they
should be doing and what they could be doing?

Senator HAGEL. Well, the National Guard, as you know, now has
a chair at the table with the Joint Chiefs. And General Grass represents
the National Guard effectively, a new, as you know, chief.
But their role will continue to be important, as will the Reserves.
I think we saw over the last 12 years of war how important our
National Guard is and the Reserves. We could not have conducted
those two wars without the National Guard and Reserves. I think
that has professionalized both services. They are going to continue
to be necessary. They are important.
Their training, their credibility, their leadership, that is obviously
why the decision was made to assure their representation
with the Joint Chiefs, and I strongly support the National Guard
and Reserves.

Senator MANCHIN. Personnel, I think that Senator MCCASKILL.
touched on things I am very concerned about. Every time I hear
about the sequestering and people tell me that if we do a sequestering
it could destroy our ability to defend ourselves and have the
military might that we do.
Now I don't see that whatsoever, and I followed the statistics. I
followed all the post war eras from starting with Korea and Vietnam,
Cold War, and where we are today. This will be the least
amount of money that we have asked to draw down under any post
war time. But yet everyone is hollering that it will be devastating.
And I know there is a way to do that, but the contracting. We
are having a hard time getting our hands around the contracting,
the cost of contracting, the ability for people in the contracting
world to be reimbursed by over $700,000, almost twice what the
President gets paid. Some of these things, would you embrace
working with us and sitting down and looking and embracing an
Myself and Tom Coburn have had legislation asking for a complete
audit of Department of Defense. Your thoughts on those two
things, sir?

Senator HAGEL. Well, of course, I will, and as I have noted this
morning, I am committed to do that. I will do it.
Accountability is a primary responsibility of any institution or organization.
That is clearly in the purview of the Congress. We have
to do it. We have got to improve on the process.
We talked a little bit this morning about the astounding amount
of waste, fraud, and abuse the Inspector General, special Inspectors
General both in Iraq and Afghanistan have found. I am committed,
as I have said, to assure that we make that deadline of 2017 on
the audits, and I will work with you closely on that.

Senator MANCHIN. And my time is up, and one thing I want to
state that we talked about in my office is the commitment to help
our returning veterans get jobs. The Jobs Caucus, ""I Hire a Vet,''
it is so important. I appreciate your support for that. I look forward
to working with you that we can put more of our vets back to work
when they come home and get them back into mainstream America.
Thank you, sir. And I look forward to voting for you.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.


Chairman LEVIN. Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe.

Senator Manchin.

Senator MANCHIN. Thank you.
Sir, I feel like I want to apologize for some of the tone and demeanor
With that being said, if I could ask you this, since we're so again
talking about things you have done, things you have said over the
years. How did you get to Vietnam? And I want to go back there.
Were you ordered to go to Vietnam? Were you sent there? Or how
was your orders?

Senator HAGEL. Well, actually I got to Vietnam through kind of
an interesting route. I volunteered for the draft, as my brother did
a month after me. And during that time in 1967 the draft was coming
down with pretty heavy levies. You recall.

Senator MANCHIN. I was there.

Senator HAGEL. And I know your story. They wouldn't take you,
not because you weren't smart enough, of course, but they wouldn't
take you because of your knees. And I know you tried to bribe your
way in, but they still wouldn't let you. So I admire you for that effort
and I know your story.
I went to basic training, advanced infantry training. My brother
followed me everywhere a month after me. After advanced infantry
training, I was selected to be one of nine first class then-Top Secret
shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile called the Redeye gun. At the
time it was classified, and it was built to bring down low-flying Soviet
MiGs coming over Germany, eastern Germany, down the
Fulda Gap.
We went to White Sands Missile Range and spent two months
training. It was all classified, couldn't get calls in or out. We were
then quietly, all nine of us, ordered to go to Germany and be integrated
into NATO units without any fanfare or anybody knowing
about it.
I got my orders to go to Germany. I went to Fort Dix, New Jersey,
in November 1967. My eight fellow soldiers and I were getting
packed up to get the bus to go out to the airport to take a flight
to Germany, and I just decided if I was going to be in the military
it didn't make much sense to go to Germany. I'd never been to Germany.
My great-grandparents were from Germany. Probably a
pretty good place, I thought, but I had to go where there was a
So I took my orders down to the orderly, told him I was Private
Hagel, I had orders to go to Germany, here are my orders, and I
wanted to volunteer to go to Vietnam. The office was a bit quiet.
They put me in a holding room. They brought priests, rabbis, ministers,
psychiatrists. All came in to examine me, thinking that I
was--something was wrong, I was running away from something
or I had killed somebody.
After two days of testing me to see if it was okay, they held me,
which--I scrubbed barracks for five days before they could cut new
orders. So they gave me new orders to go to Vietnam, sent me
home for five days, and then on to Travis Air Force Base in San
Francisco, and I got to Vietnam December 1967, got back to the
United States December----

Senator MANCHIN. There is no reason any one of us should ever
be concerned about your willing to do anything that you possibly
can to defend this country and making sure that we defend against
all foreign enemies, wherever they may be?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I hope not, Senator. I mean, we can disagree
on policies, but I think my life and my commitment to this
country is pretty clear, and I'm proud of it.

Senator MANCHIN. On that, sir, I would say that Israel, the
spokespeople for Israel, support you. They've come to me and they
tell me they support you. Have you gotten that?

Senator HAGEL. There are a lot of pro-Israeli groups that have
formally come out and endorsed me, support me, which I'm grateful

Senator MANCHIN. From what I've heard today, it sounds like
Iran has wishful thinking.

Senator HAGEL. Evidently Iran supports me.

Senator MANCHIN. The President has asked you to serve at this
level, so he has confidence in you.

Senator HAGEL. Well, the President did ask me to serve. And I
said in my opening statement I am grateful and honored by that
trust and confidence, and I will do everything in my power never
to do anything that would disabuse that confidence and trust for
this country.

Senator MANCHIN. One final very quickly, if I may. As you see
the role of Secretary of Defense--and I know we've talked about
and you've been questioned on policy, and I know you're not going
to be in a policy position. You're going to be basically following policy,
not making policy. But if you could just wrap it up, what we
should expect from your position as Secretary of Defense?

Senator HAGEL. Well, thank you, Senator. If I am confirmed, as
I noted in my opening comments, I would see this relationship,
Senator, as a partnership. I'm going to need your help. I'm going
to need your advice. I'm going to need your collaboration.
Many people on this authorization committee have a great deal
of experience in this business, many far more than I do, as is the
case in the Congress, both the Senate and the House. I will need
that. I will call upon that.
I won't be in a policymaking position, as you note. I also committed
to all of you--and those of you who served with me know
this--I'll always be honest with you. You'll never have to worry
about that. I'll listen to you. I'm sure we won't always agree, but
I'll say it straight, and I'll give you and the President my honest,
most informed advice always.

Senator MANCHIN. Thank you. And I'll say one more thing.
Where I come from there's an old saying: If you can't change your
mind, you can't change anything.

Senator HAGEL. Thank you.


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