Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered a tough opening statement at today's hearing, accusing the nominee of believing in a worldview predicated on "appeasing our enemies," among other things.
The full statement, as prepared:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming Senator Hagel before this committee and appreciate his continued willingness to serve the United States and the men and women of our Armed Forces.
Before I continue with my opening statement, I’d like to raise concern about the sufficiency of the materials provided to this committee by our nominee. Senator Hagel only provided four speeches to the committee even though his financial disclosure form reveals that he received honoraria for giving 12 speeches in the last year alone. Late last night just hours before the today’s hearing began the committee received nearly 230 pages of additional speeches given by the nominee.
In my judgment, the Committee cannot vote on this nomination until we have received full and adequate disclosure and have sufficient time to review and consider the contents of materials provided. I understand from discussions with my colleagues that there are additional requests for information that have not received a response.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman. The President’s nomination of Senator Hagel to serve as the next Secretary of Defense comes at a critical juncture for our military and national security interests. Senator Hagel is a good man who has a record of service and sacrifice that deserves respect. And while his service is commendable, the fate of his nomination should be decided by the totality of his record. It is the votes he has cast and the statements he has made over the many years of his career that will inform us of his judgment, his view of America’s role in the world and his view of the military required to support this role.
As I told him during our meeting in my office, after a long and careful review of his record, we are just too philosophically opposed on the pressing issues facing our country for me to support his nomination.
His record demonstrates what I view as a lack of sound judgment and steadfast support for policies that diminish U.S. power and influence throughout the world, as well as a recent trend of policy reversals that seem based on political expediency rather than core beliefs.
On the defense budget and sequestration, Senator Hagel’s views are contrary to the judgment of our top civilian and military leaders. According to Secretary Panetta, the impact of sequestration to our military would be “catastrophic” and “devastating” to the military. General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that we are “on the brink of creating a hollow force” and that sequestration would pose “unacceptable risk.” Senator Hagel, instead, has stated that the Defense Department is “bloated” and that “the Pentagon needs to be pared down.” I couldn’t disagree more. We need a Secretary of Defense who will stand up and work with Congress to avert this unacceptable outcome.
On many of the security challenges facing U.S. interests around the world, Senator Hagel’s record is deeply troubling and out of the mainstream. Too often, it seems, he is willing to subscribe to a worldview that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends.
In 2000, when an overwhelming majority of Senators sent a letter to President Clinton affirming American solidarity with Israel in the face of Palestinian aggression, Senator Hagel was one of just four who refused to sign.
In 2001, he was one of just two Senators who voted against a bill extending harsh sanctions against Iran. A year later, he urged the Bush administration to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization.
He voted against a resolution designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps – a group responsible for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan—a terrorist organization.
And, on multiple occasions, he has advocated for direct negotiations with Iran—a regime that continues to repress its people, doggedly pursue a nuclear weapons capability, and employ terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, to threaten the security of Israel and the region.
Senator Hagel has also been an outspoken supporter of nuclear disarmament and the Global Zero Movement. At a time when North Korea’s belligerent actions threaten our allies with their nuclear capabilities, the security of our own nation and that of our allies requires us to be vigilant with our own nuclear weapons and defense systems.
The Senate ratified the New START treaty on the condition that the president would carry out a nuclear modernization program. The Global Zero report, of which Hagel was involved, does not fully support even the President’s commitment to nuclear modernization. How can we in Congress be confident he will carry out these important modernization efforts?
Of late, however, Senator Hagel has expressed views in meetings with my Senate colleagues and through the press that appear glaringly at odds with many of his long-held positions, particularly on issues dealing with Israel, Iran, and our nuclear arsenal. This apparent willingness to walk-back or alter his positions for the sake of political expediency on such important issues is deeply troubling and sends a concerning message to our allies and adversaries alike.
Though I respect Senator Hagel, his record to date demonstrates he will be a staunch advocate for the continuation of the misguided policies of President Obama’s first term. Retreating from America’s unique global leadership role and shrinking the military will not make Americans safer. On the contrary, it will embolden our enemies, endanger our allies, and provide opportunity for nations that do not share our interests to fill the global leadership vacuum we leave behind. It is for these reasons, that I believe he is the wrong person to lead the Pentagon at this perilous and consequential time.”