Former Senator Chuck Hagel (D-Nebraska) is a good ideological fit for President Obama, so it’s no surprise that his nomination as Secretary of Defense has raised the hackles of retired leaders of the United States military. It’s a good bet that many serving generals and admirals have similar sentiments about Mr. Hagel, but obviously there is no way to tell.
Now fourteen retired military officers have come out publicly against the appointment of Mr. Hagel in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Below are excerpts from the press release on the topic that was sent out this morning by the Center for Security Policy :
Military Leaders Oppose Confirmation of Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense
(Washington, D.C.): A distinguished group of fourteen retired generals and admirals, representing all branches of the United States Armed Forces, has signed a letter opposing the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
The letter — addressed to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), respectively, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — raises several concerns about the nomination of Sen. Hagel, including:
Sen. Hagel’s support for further cuts to the defense budget. Sen. Hagel stated in late August 2011 that the Pentagon is “bloated” and needs to be “pared down”, contrary to Sec. Panetta’s and Chairman Dempsey’s views that sequestration — the additional hundreds of billions in across-the-board cuts to defense that go well beyond the $787 billion in cuts already sustained by the Department since Sec. Gates’ tenure — would be “disastrous for the defense budget” and “very high risk” to national security;
Sen. Hagel’s support for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Sen. Hagel is a public supporter of the “Global Zero” Initiative, the goal of which is the “elimination of all nuclear weapons.” This stance is ill-advised for any Secretary of Defense, as Russia and China continue to modernize their nuclear capabilities while North Korea and Iran move closer to obtaining them.
Sen. Hagel’s hostility towards Israel. Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our only stable, reliable ally in the Middle East were he to become Secretary.
Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran. Sen. Hagel repeatedly opposed sanctions against Iran while serving in the Senate, and in 2006 stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option” — an ill-advised statement that undercuts the effectiveness of both diplomatic and military policies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities.
The signers of the letter are:
- Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
- Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
- Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
- Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
- Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
- Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
- Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
- Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
- Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
- Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
- Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
- Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
- Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
- Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, which facilitated this letter, stated: “These military leaders deserve our profound thanks for once again acting in service to our nation — in this instance, for the purpose of raising awareness of the risks associated with confirming Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. This group knows firsthand that the United States military requires leadership that recognizes the need for a defense budget commensurate with the threats we face; the need for a credible, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent; and the need to support our allies and not accommodate our adversaries. Sen. Hagel lacks these qualities, and hopefully the United States Senate will heed the concerns of these flag and general officers during the course of his confirmation process.”
The full text of the letter can be found below:
29 January, 2013
Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe:
As individuals who were privileged to serve our country as flag and general officers in the United States military, we write to you to express our deep concerns about the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.
Our nation faces enormous national security challenges as we enter 2013. Addressing those challenges will require leadership at the Pentagon that recognizes the gravity of the threats we face and understands the requirement for a formidable military capable of deterring and, if necessary, overcoming them. Senator Hagel’s record on key issues indicates he is not such a leader.
First, Sen. Hagel stated on 29 August, 2011: “The Defense Department, I think in many ways has been bloated…I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.” This statement seems to ignore the fact that, the Budget Control Act of 2011 had already cut $487 billion from the defense budget over ten years — let alone that this round of reductions comes on top of the more than $300 billion in cuts that took place under then-Secretary Robert Gates.
Recall that Secretary Leon Panetta on 4 August, 2011 stated that hundreds of billions more in cuts over ten years that sequestration will bring about will be “disastrous to the defense budget.” JCS Chairman General Martin Dempsey has indicated that sequestration poses “very high risk” for national security. Consequently, Sen. Hagel’s assertion that still further cuts are warranted is at odds with the judgment of the Pentagon’s current civilian and military leadership. It suggests a disqualifying lack of understanding of the dire effects such reductions would have on our defense capabilities.
Second, Sen. Hagel is a signatory of the “Global Zero” Initiative, which describes itself as “the “international movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.” At a time when Russia and China are increasing and modernizing their nuclear capabilities, North Korea is enhancing its long-range nuclear delivery systems and the weapons they will carry and Iran is moving ever closer to obtaining such arms, we cannot responsibly abandon our deterrent. It would be ill-advised and possibly very dangerous to have as a Secretary of Defense someone who believes otherwise.
Third, Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our ally were he to become Secretary. For example: In 2009, he urged President Obama to undertake direct negotiations with Hamas. In October 2000, he was one of just three Senators to refuse to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the second Palestinian intifada. In 2002, following several deadly Palestinian suicide-bombing attacks in Israel, he authored a Washington Post op-ed asserting that “Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue.”
Israel is our only stable, reliable ally in an increasingly turbulent and hostile Middle East. Given Sen. Hagel’s record of hostility towards the Jewish State, his confirmation could signal to Israel’s enemies and ours that this important bilateral relationship is unraveling. That perception could invite aggression and perhaps another, otherwise avoidable regional war.
Another matter of profound concern is Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran — a country that, among other acts of war against our country, employed its proxy, Hezbollah, to bomb the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, resulting in the deaths 241 American servicemen. Sen. Hagel has repeatedly refused to support sanctions against Iran while in the Senate, and in 2006, he stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” This ill-advised statement telegraphs to Tehran that it should not fear a U.S. military response to the continued pursuit of Iranian nuclear weapons. Whichever policies are pursued with the objective of preventing a nuclear Iran can only have hope of success if backed by a credible military deterrent. It would be unwise to confirm a nominee for Secretary of Defense who has already publicly taken that option off the table.
For all of these reasons, it is our professional assessment that confirmation of Sen. Hagel to be Secretary of Defense would be contrary to the United States’ vital national security interests.
Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)
For more information, visit the Center for Security Policy website.