On January 7, 2013, President Barack Obama
nominated Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense. On February 12, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee
approved Hagel's nomination by a vote of 14–11.
On February 14, 2013, Senate Republicans denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to end the debate on Hagel's nomination and proceed to a final vote, citing the need for further review. It was the first time in U.S. history that a nominee for Secretary of Defense was filibustered
although candidates for other cabinet offices have been filibustered before.
On February 26, 2013, the Senate voted for cloture
on Hagel's nomination and confirmed him by a vote of 58–41.
He took office on 27 February 2013, as his predecessor, Leon Panetta
, stepped down.
On November 24, 2014, it was announced that Hagel would resign from the position of Secretary of Defense following conflicts within the administration, particularly relating to issues concerning ISIL
Early life, education, military, and early political career Hagel was born in North Platte, Nebraska
, a son of Charles Dean Hagel, and his wife Elizabeth (Betty) Dunn. His father was of German
heritage, while his mother was of Irish
Growing up, Hagel lived across Nebraska; in Ainsworth
Hagel was the oldest of four brothers.
His father, a veteran of World War II
, died suddenly on Christmas morning, 1962, at the age of 39, when Hagel was 16.
He graduated from St. Bonaventure High School (now Scotus Central Catholic High School
) in Columbus, Nebraska
, in 1964, the Brown Institute for Radio and Television
in 1966, and he earned a BA
degree in history
at the University of Nebraska at Omaha
After his discharge, he worked as a radio newscaster and talk show host in Omaha from 1969 to 1971
while finishing college on Veterans Administration
(VA) assistance under the GI Bill
After Reagan's inauguration as President, Hagel was named deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration
. In 1982, however, he resigned his post over a disagreement with VA Administrator Robert P. Nimmo
, who was intent on cutting funding for VA programs. Nimmo had referred to veterans groups as "greedy", and to Agent Orange
as not much worse than a "little teenage acne."
Business career (1982–1996)
Although he was pressured by some to run for Governor of Virginia
, where he had lived for 20 years, in 1992 Hagel moved back to Nebraska to become president of the McCarthy Group, LLC
, an investment banking
He also served as a Chairman and was CEO of American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), later known as Election Systems & Software
, a computerized voting machine
manufacturer jointly owned by McCarthy Group, LLC and the Omaha World-Herald
On March 15, 1995, Hagel resigned from the board of AIS as he intended to run for office. Michael McCarthy
, the parent company's founder, was Hagel's campaign treasurer.
Until at least 2003, he retained between $1 million and $5 million in stock in Election Systems & Software's parent company, the McCarthy Group.
In 1996, Hagel ran for the open US Senate seat created by the retirement of Democrat J. James Exon
. Hagel's opponent was Ben Nelson
, then the sitting governor of Nebraska
. Hagel won and became the first Republican in twenty-four years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska. Six years later, in 2002
, Hagel overwhelmingly won re-election with over 83% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in any statewide race in Nebraska history.
Senate voting record
Hagel's portrait as a senator.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks
, Hagel voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 23
, authorizing "necessary and appropriate U.S. Military force" in Afghanistan
against those who planned or aided the September 11 attacks.
During his tenure in the Senate, Hagel continued his support for NATO
involvement, and funding in the War in Afghanistan
In a 2009 The Washington Post
op-ed after being nominated as Chairman of President Obama's Intelligence advisory board, Hagel said that "We cannot view U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan through a lens that sees only 'winning' or 'losing,' Iraq and Afghanistan are not America's to win or lose." And that "We can help them buy time or develop, but we cannot control their fates."
In 2011, after he left office, Hagel stated that President Obama needs to start "looking for the exit in Afghanistan", and that "We need to start winding this down."
On October 11, 2002, Hagel, along with 76 other Senators, voted in favor of the Iraq Resolution
Hagel, a later critic of the war, commented on his vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq saying,
How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq
, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam
Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism, and a bit more humility.
In July 2007, Hagel was one of three Republican senators who supported Democratic-proposed legislation requiring a troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin within 120 days. He told Robert D. Novak
"This thing is really coming undone quickly, and [Prime Minister] Maliki's government is weaker by the day. The police are corrupt, top to bottom. The oil problem is a huge problem. They still can't get anything through the parliament—no hydrocarbon law, no de-Baathification
law, no provincial elections."
In 2008, along with then-Senator (and presumptive Democratic nominee for president) Barack Obama, and Senator Jack Reed
), Hagel visited Iraq in a congressional delegation trip, meeting with U.S. service members, General David Petraeus
, and the Prime Minister of IraqNouri al-Maliki
While talking to reporters in Iraq, Hagel said, "Each one of us who has a responsibility of helping lead this country needs to reflect on what we think is in the interests of our country, not the interest of our party or our president."
In 2007, Hagel introduced Senate Amendment 2032, amending the Defense Authorization bill limiting the deployment of U.S. service members serving in Iraq 12 months. The amendment needed 60 votes in the Senate to pass, but was ultimately defeated in a 52-45 vote.
In 2008, Hagel was a principal co-sponsor with two other veterans in the Senate of Senator Jim Webb
's "21st Century GI Bill" which passed Congress as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008
, expanding education assistance to veterans who served after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
During his tenure in the Senate, Hagel supported the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, barring openly LGBT
members of the armed forces from serving, but was later described as "pro-ending don't ask, don't tell."
In 2001, Hagel voted in favor of the Patriot Act
Although Hagel originally indicated a "nay" vote in reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act in 2006,
Hagel voted in favor of reauthorization.
After calls from the Bush Administration for the House and Senate to reform FISA
, the House introduced the Protect America Act of 2007
, expanding provisions allowing electronic surveillance of foreigners outside of the U.S. with a warrant. In a 68–29 vote, the Protect America Act of 2007 passed the Senate, with Hagel voting to expand FISA's provisions on warrantless surveillance.
Hagel voted in favor of Senate Amendment 2022, restoring habeas corpus
, the right to due process
, to American citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay detention camp
, but voted against a similar resolution restoring it to all prisoners detained at Guantanamo.
In response to the Bush Administration's intentions to keep Guantanamo Bay open permanently, Hagel said the military prison
is why the U.S. is "losing the image war around the world," and that "It's identifiable with, for right or wrong, a part of America that people in the world believe is a power, an empire that pushes people around, we do it our way, we don't live up to our commitments to multilateral institutions."
Criticism of Bush administration
On August 18, 2005, Hagel compared the Iraq War
, and openly mocked Vice President Dick Cheney
's assertion that the Iraqi insurgency
was in its "last throes."
In November 2005, Hagel defended his criticism of the Iraq war, stating "To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic."
In December 2005, in reference to Bush, the Republican Party
, and the Patriot Act, Hagel stated "I took an oath of office to the Constitution
, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."
Senator Chuck Hagel arriving at Camp Ramadi
, during a 2008 visit to U.S. Service members in Iraq
In January 2006, Hagel took issue with Karl Rove
's statement that the Republican and Democratic worldviews were "post-9/11" and "pre-9/11", respectively. Hagel stated, "I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping
, in a political context."
In July 2006, Hagel criticized the Bush administration on its handling of the 2006 Lebanon War
, saying "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop." He also said "Our relationship with Israel is special and historic... But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice."
Following heavy Republican losses in the 2006 midterm election
, Hagel penned an editorial in The Washington Post
highly critical of military strategies both employed and proposed for Iraq. He wrote that "There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq," and called for a "phased troop withdrawal."
According to a SurveyUSA
poll, in August 2006 Hagel had a 10% higher approval rating among Nebraska Democrats than Republicans.
In January 2007, Hagel openly criticized President Bush's plan to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq. He called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out."
Together with Democrats Joe Biden
and Carl Levin
, he proposed a non-binding resolution to the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which rejected Bush's policy as "not in the national interest" in a 12–9 vote.
After an April 2007 visit to Iraq with U.S. congressman Joe Sestak
(D-PA), Hagel stated his belief that the occupation of Iraq should not continue indefinitely and expressed his intention to cooperate with Senate Democrats in voting for a bill that would set a timeline to get out of Iraq.
In November 2007, he rated the Bush administration "the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus—almost every area" of any presidency in the last forty years.
2008 presidential election
Hagel was rumored to be a possible running mate for Vice President for then Senator Barack Obama, in his 2008 presidential campaign
On June 20, 2008, Hagel said he would consider running with Obama if offered the VP spot, though he added that he did not believe that Obama would pick him for the position.
At the time he also was mentioned as a potential United States Secretary of Defense to succeed incumbent Robert Gates
in the Obama administration
Hagel said that he would consider serving if asked.
Hagel and Senator John McCain were close friends until 2007 when they diverged regarding Iraq policy; Hagel did not endorse McCain for President in the 2008 Republican primaries
or in the general election.
Explaining his reason for not endorsing John McCain in the 2008 election, Hagel told The New Yorker, "In good conscience, I could not enthusiastically—honestly—go out and endorse him, when we so fundamentally disagree on the future course of our foreign policy and our role in the world."
In August 2008, Hagel indicated that he would not endorse either candidate or get involved in their campaigns.
Retirement from U.S. Senate
During his first campaign, Hagel indicated that, were he to be elected, he would retire in 2008 after two terms in the Senate.
In August 2004 Hagel acknowledged that he was considering a presidential campaign in 2008.
In 2006 he cooperated with Charlyne Berens who wrote a biography entitled Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward
On September 10, 2007, Hagel announced that he would retire and not seek a third term. He also declined to run for president in 2008. He decided to go into academia.
Hiatus from public service (2009–2013)
Hagel speaking at a forum for the Law of the Sea Convention in Washington, D.C.
, May 9, 2012.
America: Our Next Chapter
In Hagel's 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers
(with Peter Kaminsky), he suggests that the United States should adopt independent leadership and possibly another political party. He also believes that the Iraq War
is one of the five biggest blunders in U.S. history. Hagel is critical of George W. Bush's foreign policy
, calling it "reckless." He has been a major critic of the war since it started, and has stated that the United States should learn from its mistakes in the Vietnam War
. He considered Bush's foreign policy a "ping pong game with American lives."
Service in academia and on boards of directors
Hagel identifies with Ronald Reagan's nuclear disarmament
policies and was an initial signatory to the Global Zero campaign
which advocates the international elimination of nuclear weaponry.
He also served on the board of the Ploughshares Fund, which pursues the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and seeks to prevent their use.
Endorsement of Senate candidates
In 2010, Hagel endorsed Democratic Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak
in his run for the United States Senate.
In 2012 he endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey
in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska.
Secretary of Defense (2013–2015)
President Obama nominated Hagel to succeed Leon Panetta and serve as his second term Secretary of Defense on January 7, 2013.
Hagel, who became, upon confirmation, the first former enlisted combat soldier to hold the office of Secretary of Defense, was interviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee during a seven-and-a-half-hour hearing on January 31, 2013.
Criticism of the nomination
According to Jon Swaine writing in The Daily Telegraph
, Hagel has been accused of having "views [that] verged on anti-Semitic" due to his stating in a 2006 interview with Aaron David Miller
that "[t]he Jewish lobby
intimidates a lot of people [on Capitol Hill
and "I'm not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator."
Hagel later clarified these remarks saying he was referring to the Israel lobby
Hagel also has been criticized by the American Jewish Committee
for an incident in 1999 where he was the only senator not to sign an open letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin
threatening to cut aid to Russia if it did not take action against rising anti-Semitism in the country.
However, Hagel's refusal to sign the letter was consistent with his policy of never signing letters to foreign heads of state. Hagel, instead, wrote to Bill Clinton
on this issue, saying "Anti-Semitism or any form of religious persecution should never be tolerated."
Hagel was criticized by the Christian Science Monitor
and many Republicans, including senator John McCain, for opposing some sanctions against Iran, and for calling for dialogue with Iran and Hamas
Some of Hagel's policy positions became the subject of heated debate in the Senate, including support of defense cuts, opposition to preemptive action against Iran, and support of talks with Hamas and Hezbollah. However, U.S. News and World Report
cited public opinion polls and foreign policy experts to suggest that Hagel's views were within the mainstream of American foreign policy thought.
Opponents also complained of Hagel's 2011 call to have the Pentagon
"pared down", saying that "[t]he Defense Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated."
The Human Rights Campaign
criticized Hagel for having a "consistent anti-LGBT" voting record in the Senate and for opposing President Bill Clinton
's nomination of James Hormel
as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg
, stating that Hormel was "openly, aggressively gay." The group demanded that Hagel apologize for this 1998 remark.
The Log Cabin Republicans
ran full-page newspaper ads opposing Hagel's nomination.
Hagel apologized to Hormel in December 2012.
On January 24, 2013, Senator Jeanne Shaheen
stated that Hagel will oppose restrictions on LGBT military family benefits.
Shortly thereafter, on February 13, 2013, the Senate's first openly LGBT member, Tammy Baldwin
) stated that after meeting with Hagel, she would support his nomination.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham
of South Carolina predicted that Hagel would be "the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense toward the State of Israel in our nation's history" and called it an "in-your-face nomination."
The New York Times
reported that the media campaign opposing Hagel's appointment was financed by new groups including a conservative group, Americans for a Strong Defense and a gay rights group, Use Your Mandate. The donors of these groups were mostly anonymous and running advertisements on issues raised by critics. The Times
described the campaign as "unmatched in the annals of modern presidential cabinet appointments".
Support for the nomination
In December 2012, nine former United States ambassadors
, including five former ambassadors to Israel
, wrote a letter in support of nominating Hagel. Brent Scowcroft
, Anthony Zinni
and nine other retired senior military officers signed a separate letter of support. Robert Gates
and Colin Powell
also endorsed Hagel for the nomination, with Powell calling him "that kind of independent and bold leader who thinks in and out of the box" who can "deal with the strategic and resource challenges [the Department of Defense] will be facing over the next several years."
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, the senior rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, Nebraska since 1988, wrote in a CNN article that "[Hagel's] record shows strong support for Israel" and that Hagel understands "the Israeli people and their desire to live in peace and security." He added that "Recent efforts to smear Chuck ... ultimately that hurts the long-term security of the state of Israel."
Senate hearing and votes
with President Barack Obama, after announcing his nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Defense Secretary at the White House
, January 7, 2013.
During his Senate hearing opening statement Hagel said that he endorsed use of American military power, supported Israel and supported using special operations forces
and unmanned combat aerial vehicles
("drones") on terrorist groups in Yemen
and North Africa
. He stated "I believe, and always have, that America must engage—not retreat—in the world". During the hearing he explained his 2001 and 2002 votes against unilateral American sanctions on Iran as being for strategic reasons. He said he supported President Obama's drawing down troops in Afghanistan and said he would do "everything possible under current law" to support gay and women service members equal benefits and combat roles.
Hagel faced sharp questioning from Republicans. Senator John McCain
berated him for refusing to give a yes or no answer to the question of whether the Iraq War troop surge of 2007
was a success. Senator Lindsey Graham
of South Carolina demanded he "name one dumb thing we've been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby."
Hagel stated "I've already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby, I should have said, 'pro-Israel lobby. ... The use of 'intimidation'—I should have used 'influence.' I think that would have been more appropriate. I should not have said 'dumb' or 'stupid,' because I understand or appreciate there are other views on these things.".
Senator Ted Cruz
played video excerpts from a 2009 Al Jazeera
interview, and asserted that Hagel had agreed with a caller who suggested that Israel had committed war crimes. Hagel denied he agreed with that view.
After the hearing, Senator Cruz organized a letter from 25 Republican Senators saying they would not vote until Hagel gave them copies of speeches given to organizations and told them the amount he was paid and whether the organizations received money from foreign sources. Lindsey Graham said they wanted to know if he spoke for any "anti-Israel" groups. Senate Committee chair Carl Levin
said the demands were unprecedented, asking "for information no prior nominee has been asked for," and expressed confidence Hagel would be approved by the Senate.
Cloture and final vote
Despite the committee's February 12, 2013, 14-to-11 vote to approve Hagel, committee member James Inhofe
vowed to use procedural tactics to delay a full Senate confirmation vote.
Inhofe told the National Review
"Each day that goes by will make it more difficult for Democrats who say they are pro-Israel to hold out."
On February 14 Republicans refused to close debate on Hagel's nomination, which would require 60 votes, even though the nomination was assured the simple majority of votes needed to pass. Reasons given included a demand for more White House information about the 2012 Benghazi attack
, remaining questions about Hagel's views on Iran and Israel, and assertions two weeks after the hearings was insufficient time. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
said the Republicans were politically motivated
and that the vote would proceed after the recess.
Senate Republicans successfully filibustered his nomination after a cloture vote failed 58-40 with one present and one not voting. This filibuster marked the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense was successfully filibustered.
The Senate voted 71-27 for cloture
on Hagel's nomination on February 26, 2013.
Later that day the Senate voted to make Hagel the Secretary of Defense by a vote of 58-41.
Criticism of the process
The hearings were criticized in the media. In Time
magazine Brandon Friedman
presented a chart showing that Israel
was mentioned 106 times while Afghanistan was mentioned only 24 times; nuclear-armed Pakistan
was barely mentioned. Friedman asked if the Senate committee was more concerned with Hagel's "relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan
, and the fate of U.S. troops engaged in both locations."
A Michael McGough Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times
was entitled "Hagel hearings: Is Israel more important than Afghanistan?" Gene Healy
called the hearings "farcical" and wrote there was "plenty of bloviating, grandstanding and browbeating—but, apparently, not enough time for serious deliberation over key policy questions facing any new Pentagon chief."
, the BBC News
North America editor, criticized the "whole process, which has been used not to examine a candidate's fitness for high office, but to underline the rather obvious fact that the Obama administration
does not share the world view of Republican senators, and they don't like their former colleague joining it."
Mardell noted the senators repeatedly "insisted he gave a simple 'yes' or 'no' to complex questions. These are old men who hold themselves in high regard, but seem to see serious examination of difficult problems as a personal affront. They desperately want to play 'gotcha
', but haven't the self-restraint to design effective questions." Mardell called Senator Hagel "equally unimpressive, almost unprepared, for a level of hostility that had been signalled long in advance. Neither smart, nor humble, his tactic seemed to be a kind of bumbling blandness." According to Mardell, only Senator Cruz was effective and well-prepared, as "he ripped into the nominee with all the skill honed as a Texas solicitor general."
Hagel starts his day reading newspaper excerpts in the Early Bird
, (The U.S. Department of Defense
early morning newspaper.) in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 9, 2013
Hagel was sworn in on February 27, 2013, taking over from Leon Panetta
In May 2013, during a visit to Asian countries whose "main doubt" was American staying power in the region, Hagel called the decline of American military power a "good thing", because it forced American allies to share responsibilities.
On July 31, 2013, Hagel announced the results of his Strategic Choices and Management Review, undertaken in response to the budget sequestration in 2013
One of the options he highlighted was to reduce the navy's Aircraft carrier
groups down from 11 to as little as eight.
On August 27, 2013, Hagel told the BBC that the United States was ready to launch a strike against Syria
if given the orders.
Chuck Hagel with IDF General Benny Gantz
and Moshe Ya'alon
In May 2014, speaking at the Wilson Center
on the future of the NATO, Hagel focused on the alliance's imbalance in defense spending and called for "renewed financial commitments from all NATO members". According to Hagel, the alliance "should expect Russia to test our alliance's purpose, stamina and commitment".
During his time as Secretary of Defense, he was known for the close relationship he formed with Israeli defense officials, in particular Moshe Ya'alon
, who described Hagel as a 'true friend'.
Even as relations with the White House deteriorated, Hagel was positively viewed by Israeli military officials, which was seen as a stark contrast to the way Hagel was perceived by some in Washington prior to his appointment.
On November 24, 2014, The New York Times
reported that Hagel would be resigning from his position as Secretary of Defense under pressure from the Obama administration.
Later that day, President Obama announced Hagel's resignation and thanked him for his service. Hagel said in a statement, "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."
Hagel did not deny rumors that Obama asked for his resignation, but he explicitly contends that it was a "mutual decision" between him and President Obama.
Senator John McCain offered his own insight: Hagel was frustrated with the White House decision-making process, national security policy, and "excessive micromanagement" within the White House.
In December 2015, during an interview with Foreign Policy
, Hagel stated he was "backstabbed" and accused Obama administration officials of making anonymous comments after his resignation in an effort to destroy his reputation.
Awards and honors
In 2001, Hagel was awarded the Horatio Alger Award
for Distinguished Americans.
He was also granted the title of Nebraska Admiral
by Nebraska's governor, an honorary title, considering Nebraska is a landlocked state.
Hagel was also the featured speaker at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Chemistry Council at Colorado Springs.
2020 presidential election
Hagel, along with all other other former secretaries of defense, nine in total, published a Washington Post Op-Ed piece in January 2021 telling President Trump not to involve the military in determining the outcome of the 2020 elections.
In 1979, Hagel married Patricia Lloyd. The couple separated in 1981 and divorced a year later.
He married his second wife, Lilibet Ziller, in April 1985. The couple live with their daughter, Allyn, and son, Ziller, in McLean, Virginia
While a Senator, Hagel had a tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween
, usually masquerading as one of his colleagues or other notable political figures, including Joe Biden
, John McCain
, Colin Powell
, and Pat Roberts
in past years.
He gave back a portion of his salary for the 2013 fiscal year in solidarity with his department's workers who were facing 14 days of furloughs.
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Documentaries, topic pages and databases
Selected news articles
- Josh Rogin, Chuck Hagel does not like sanctions, Foreign Policy, December 17, 2012e
- Connie Bruck, "Odd Man Out: Chuck Hagel's Republican Exile" The New Yorker 84/35 (November 3, 2008) : 52-63
- Sen. Chuck Hagel Interview (video), The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, March 31, 2008
- Hagel low on cash on hand, raising retirement issue, The Hill, January 30, 2007
- Joseph Lelyveld, "The Heartland Dissident", New York Times Magazine, February 12, 2006
- Chuck Hagel: A Christmas Present, and Past, The Washington Post, December 22, 2005
- Interview C-SPAN Q&A, November 13, 2005
- Hagel’s ethics filings pose disclosure issue, The Hill, January 29, 2003
Last edited on 28 April 2021, at 12:57
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