Why Chuck Hagel is the wrong choice to lead the Pentagon

The bitter tone of gridlock in Washington has left many Americans hoping for a more collaborative environment to face the country’s most pressing challenges. Changes in the president’s Cabinet presented a prime opportunity for coming together. Instead of seeking consensus, President Barack Obama has forced confrontation with the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to be America’s next secretary of defense.

Unlike outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was approved unanimously by the Senate, Hagel is expected to provoke a divisive confirmation process — at a time when Congress should be focused on urgent budget issues that could dramatically change America’s defense strategy and capabilities.

If not averted, disastrous military cuts are set to go into effect less than two months from now. The impact threatens to jeopardize military readiness and puts more than 1 million American jobs on the line. Doubts that Congress and the White House can reach an agreement have already prompted the Pentagon to order cutbacks, including a hiring freeze on civilian workers and slashing costs from military base operations.

Sen. Roger Wicker
1/14/13