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Feb. 13, 2015 Update: Farewell Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary Chuck Hagel

United States Department of Defense

News Release No: NR-054-15
Press Operations
February 13, 2015

Farewell Message to the Department of Defense from Secretary Chuck Hagel

To the men and women of the Department of Defense:

When I joined the United States Army 48 years ago, I could not have imagined one day serving as secretary of defense. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with you.

As I leave office, I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together over the past two years.

We have responsibly ended our combat operations in Afghanistan and begun the follow-on mission to preserve our achievements there.

We have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, while successfully responding to crises around the world.

We have launched vital reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges of the future.

We have fought hard — and made real progress — against the scourge of sexual assault in our ranks.

And after 13 years of war, we have worked to restore our military readiness and ease the burdens on our people and their families.

Through it all, many of you, and your families, coped with shutdowns and furloughs; weathered hiring and pay freezes; and endured long hours and longer deployments. You did so because we each took an oath to defend our nation, our fellow citizens, and our way of life. And you have lived up to your word.

But as you know well, the world is still too dangerous, and threats too numerous. I know you will remain vigilant, continuing your important work under the leadership of Ash Carter.

A special note to our men and women in uniform: of all the many opportunities my life has given me, I am most proud of having once been a soldier. The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty — I have carried these with me throughout my life. As your secretary of defense, I have seen those same traits in each of you.

Whether you serve in uniform or as a civilian, you are the reason why our military is the finest in the world and the most admired and most trusted institution in America. Nothing has clarified my thinking, nothing has renewed my hope, and nothing has made me prouder than getting to know, work, and serve with so many of you who have put the nation’s interest above your own.

If I had any parting guidance, it would be the same reminder that my drill sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class William Joyce, gave to me after I finished basic training in 1967: “People depend on you. They’ll always depend on you.”

That was true for me then, and it is true for all of you today. People depend on you — America depends on you — to live up to your oath, to conduct yourselves in keeping with our highest standards, and to perform as the greatest military the world has ever known. After two years serving with you, I am confident you will continue to do so.

You and your families have my deepest gratitude and admiration.

Thank you for your unflagging service and your commitment to this country. May God bless America and each and every one of you.

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Nov. 24, 2014 Update: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Stepping Down at Request of President Barack Obama

Hagel said to be resigning under pressure; Obama dissatisfied, officials say, amid global crises (New York Times, Nov. 24, 2014) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was asked to resign his post, officials said, as President Obama’s national security team has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

Full report

United States Department of Defense

News Release No: NR-589-14
Press Operations
November 24, 2014

Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

To the men and women of the Department of Defense:

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that this morning, President Obama accepted my letter of resignation. I have agreed to continue to serve as secretary of defense until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.

You should know I did not make this decision lightly. But after much discussion, the president and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon.

I want you to know that I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together. We have prepared ourselves, our allies and the Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan. We have taken the fight to ISIL and, with our Iraqi and coalition partners, have blunted the momentum of this barbaric enemy. We have come to the aid of millions of people around the world who have suffered the ravages of natural disaster and of disease. We have worked tirelessly to sustain our all-volunteer force that has given so much during 13 years of war. And we have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, all the while setting in motion important reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in the decades to come.

Most importantly, we have helped keep this country and our fellow citizens safe. We have sustained the blessings of liberty our ancestors secured and upheld the oath we took.

That work will continue. It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the president my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.

There will be time later to say farewell. For now, please know how much I respect and admire your service and that of your families. As I gather with my own family this Thanksgiving holiday — a luxury I realize not all of you will enjoy — it will be the privilege of having worked with you these last two years for which I will be most grateful.

Thank you for all you do for this country. God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Hagel_Tom-Chuck_APC
Chuck Hagel and his brother Tom sit atop an armored personnel carrier in Vietnam. (Photo credit: AP)

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Confirm Chuck Hagel

Editorial

February 26, 2012 (p. A24)

Excerpts

Barring some last-minute snag, the Senate is expected to vote to end a Republican filibuster [today] and then move on to confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The filibuster was pernicious from the start, and Mr. Hagel should be approved without further delay.

Nothing in the public record remotely warrants disqualification, despite a vicious and long campaign by Republicans against him. In particular, Mr. Hagel has been pilloried by former Republican colleagues in the Senate who proclaim devotion to the nation’s defense but thought nothing of politically battering Mr. Hagel even if, as many admit, they could not defeat him. …

Yet the debate rages on. Senator John McCain, a Republican who can’t forgive Mr. Hagel for opposing the Iraq war, once again called him a friend on CNN on Sunday and said he deserved to have the Senate vote on his nomination. But Mr. McCain declared that a man he once suggested should be considered for defense secretary is not qualified and wouldn’t have his vote.

The Senate has a constitutional duty to review top executive appointments. But it’s one thing to raise serious questions about a candidate’s character or political views; it’s quite another to distort a nominee’s views on Israel and Iran as some conservative Republicans and the most rigidly pro-Israel groups have with Mr. Hagel. Some accused of him of receiving money from a group called “Friends of Hamas” — a rumor that started with a joke about a nonexistent group. …

A decorated Vietnam veteran, Mr. Hagel is one of a fading breed of moderate Republicans whose independence and past willingness to challenge Republican orthodoxy on Iraq, sanctions on Iran and other issues is admirable. …

Full story

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After Seven-Week Struggle, Hagel Poised for Defense Confirmation


Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be Defense Secretary, on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, in this January 31, 2013, file photo. (Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

By Tom Curry
National Affairs Writer

February 26, 2013

Excerpts

Chuck Hagel’s seven-week struggle to win confirmation as secretary of defense appears near the end with an expected Senate vote [today] on his nomination.

President Barack Obama’s choice to run the Pentagon is expected to win confirmation since a few Republicans announced that they’ll join Senate Democrats in voting for him.

The vote would put an end to a rocky nomination process that came after Hagel’s GOP foes succeeded in delaying the confirmation.

Lead opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, insinuated two weeks ago that Hagel might have given as-yet undisclosed speeches to “extreme or radical groups” or received money from foreign sources or from defense contractors in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., rebuked the latter saying Hagel complied with the committee’s financial disclosure requirements and deserved confirmation.

Last week 15 GOP senators asked Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination, but it was clear that not enough Republican senators would vote to further delay Hagel’s confirmation by extended debate or filibuster.

The former Nebraska Republican senator … harshly criticized President George W. Bush after the Iraq war became unpopular in 2006, suggesting at one point that Bush might be impeached. …

From the beginning, Obama portrayed Hagel as a man who was ideally qualified to head the Defense Department because, as the president said when announcing the nomination, he “knows that war is not an abstraction. He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.”

In presenting Hagel as his pick, Obama declared that “Chuck represents the bipartisan tradition that we need more of in Washington.”

Obama said that he was courageous and independent in his views “and that’s exactly the spirit I want on my national security team, a recognition that when it comes to the defense of our country, we are not Democrats or Republicans; we are Americans.” …

Full story

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2/27/2013 Update

Senate Approves Hagel as New Secretary of Defense

By Patricia Zengerle

February 26, 2013

WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of defense on Tuesday, after an unusually acrimonious confirmation fight that threatened to complicate his work as civilian leader at the Pentagon.

The Senate voted 58-41 to confirm the former Republican senator, the closest vote ever to approve a defense secretary.

Just four Republicans – Mike Johanns of Nebraska, who holds Hagel’s old Senate seat, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Rand Paul of Kentucky – joined the Democrats and independents in support of Hagel’s nomination.

After the hard-fought victory, the Democratic president said he was pleased there had been bipartisan support for Hagel, a decorated veteran who served during the Vietnam War as an enlisted man before becoming a Republican U.S. senator.

“I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defense, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people,” Obama said.

The bruising battle over Hagel was one of many bitter partisan struggles between Democrats and Republicans at a time when Congress is widely criticized for its inability to agree on even the most basic measures to run the country.

The Senate had voted earlier on Tuesday to end debate on Hagel and move forward, almost two weeks after Republicans launched a filibuster to block the nomination. It was the first ever used to delay consideration of a defense nominee, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of jeopardizing national security. …

Although the Senate rejected John Tower as President George Bush’s Pentagon pick in 1989 by a 53-47 vote, defense nominees are typically confirmed by large margins. Leon Panetta, whom Hagel replaces as defense secretary, was approved by a unanimous vote of 100 to nothing in June 2011. …

Hagel said he was honored to return to public service. “I will work closely with Congress to ensure that we maintain the strongest military in the world and continue to protect this great nation,” he said in a statement.

Hagel will be sworn in on Wednesday morning [Feb. 27, 2013]. …

Full story

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3/9/2013 Update

Suicide Bomb Hits Kabul as U.S. Defense Chief Hagel Visits

Video

Hagel stresses ‘we’re still at war in Afghanistan’ (NBC News, March 8, 2013) – Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan for his first trip abroad as U.S. defense secretary. On the flight over he told the press that he was traveling there to better understand “where we are in Afghanistan.” (01:21)

By Lolita C. Baldor

March 9, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials say there was an explosion outside the Afghan defense ministry causing multiple casualties, as U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel visits the country.

Afghan police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai says an apparent suicide attacker on a bicycle hit the main entrance to the defense ministry around 9 a.m. Saturday local time. At least eight Afghan civilians are reported dead.Hagel was in a meeting at a coalition facility in Kabul and defense officials say he is in a safe location and unharmed. Reporters traveling with Hagel were in a briefing when they heard the explosion, and were moved to a lower floor of the same building. …

Hagel arrived in Afghanistan Friday for his first visit as Pentagon chief, saying that there are plenty of challenges ahead as NATO hands over the country’s security to the Afghans.

“We are still at war,” Hagel said, warning the U.S. and its allies to remain focused on the mission while noting that the U.S. never intended to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.

“That transition has to be done right, it has to be done in partnership with the Afghans, with our allies,” said Hagel, who took over the Pentagon job a little more than a week ago. …

He said it was vital to remember why the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the days after the 9/11 attacks, including the need to rid the country of terrorists and a hostile government.

On the day of Hagel’s arrival, there was a fresh reminder of the conflict. Defense officials said three men wearing Afghan army uniforms and driving an Afghan army vehicle forced their way onto a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan at midday and opened fire, killing one civilian contractor and wounding U.S. troops.

Hagel told reporters traveling with him that he plans to talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the recent order expelling U.S. commandos from Wardak Province. He would not say what his message to Karzai might be.

Karzai ordered that U.S. special operations forces leave within two weeks because of allegations that Afghans working with the commandos were involved in abusive behavior and torture.

The order comes despite worries that it could leave the region more vulnerable to al-Qaida and other insurgents. U.S. officials have said they have seen no evidence that American forces were involved in the abuse of Afghan civilians. Hagel is slated to meet with U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders and plans to make his first detailed assessment of the increasingly unpopular war. …

Hagel traveled to Afghanistan four times during his two terms as senator for Nebraska, including once in 2002 shortly after the war began, in 2006 and twice in 2008. His final two visits were in 2008, once in February with then Sens. Joe Biden and John Kerry — now the vice president and secretary of state, and in July with then-Sen. Barack Obama.

While Hagel initially supported the Afghanistan war when he was senator, his enthusiasm diminished as the conflict dragged on for more than 10 years. He pointedly observed that militaries are “built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations.” And in a radio interview this year, he acknowledged the nation’s growing weariness with the war that has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. troops and wounded another 18,000, saying that “the American people want out” of Afghanistan.

His review of the war will likely be colored in part by his own military service. Hagel is the first Vietnam veteran to lead the Pentagon, and the first man to become defense secretary after serving only in the enlisted ranks. All the other secretaries with military service eventually served as officers. Hagel served in Vietnam alongside his brother, was wounded twice and was awarded two Purple Hearts. …

Full story

————————————————

Related reports on this site

Endorsed for Defense Secretary: Sen. Chuck Hagel (Dec. 21, 2012)

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at Georgetown University; and Dr. Aubrey Immelman, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Johns University, Collegeville, Minn., Sept. 23, 2009.The Washington Post editorial board
has it wrong.

Chuck Hagel is the right choice
for Secretary of Defense.

President Obama: Please nominate Sen. Hagel now.

U.S. Senate: Please confirm Sen. Hagel without delay.

Chuck Hagel McCarthy Lecture (Sept. 24, 2009)

Chuck Hagel Speaks in Minnesota (Sept. 23, 2009)

Sen. Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Chuck Hagel to Deliver Eugene McCarthy Lecture (July 29, 2009)

Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh (Nov. 19, 2008)

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