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The case against Hagel

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 8:59 p.m.

Our military and national security interests are at a critical juncture. As Chuck Hagel's former colleague, I know that he is a good man with a record of service and sacrifice that deserves respect.

While his service is commendable, the lens through which his nomination as Defense secretary must be considered needs to be broader and more refined. Whether he is the right person to lead Defense should be determined by his judgment, his fundamental view of America's role in the world and his assessment of the military required to support this role.

After carefully reviewing his record, I am unable to support his nomination.

President Barack Obama is unyielding in his determination to oversee significant reductions to the size and resources of our military. Such a course would have an enormous impact on the capabilities and readiness of our servicemen and women to operate in a world that becomes more complex and dangerous each day. Simply retreating from America's leadership role in the world and shrinking our military will not make Americans safer.

I fear that Hagel will be a staunch advocate for, or even accelerate, the continuation of this administration's misguided policies.

The most immediate threat facing Defense is sequestration, which, if allowed to occur, will result in drastic across-the-board cuts to most major budget accounts. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has stated that these cuts would have a “catastrophic” and “devastating” effect on the military. I couldn't agree more.

Hagel, however, does not seem to share this view. The Financial Times reported in December that he said, “There's a tremendous amount of bloat in the Pentagon, and that has to be scaled back.” I strongly disagree and believe that averting the outcomes of Defense sequestration must be the government's top priority.

And on many of the security challenges facing U.S. interests around the world, Hagel's record is deeply troubling. 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 nearly every senator joined a letter to President Bill Clinton affirming U.S. solidarity with Israel in the face of Palestinian aggression, 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.

Hagel has also been an outspoken supporter of nuclear disarmament and the Global Zero Movement, which seeks a world free of nuclear weapons. At a time when North Korea's belligerent actions threaten our allies and Iran's pursuit of a nuclear-weapons capability risks the stability of the Middle East, the security of our nation and that of our allies require the United States to be vigilant with our nuclear weapons and defense systems.

While I respect Hagel's continued willingness to serve his country, I feel we are too philosophically opposed on the most pressing issues confronting the security of our nation. Issues related to our nation's Defense spending, international engagement and support for allies and nuclear modernization are just some examples where we are far apart.

Jim Inhofe, a U.S. senator of Oklahoma, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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