I cannot fathom a more difficult circumstance than the one that greeted Chuck Hagel as he was sworn in as secretary of defense.
Except, perhaps, unless the nation was involved in a worldwide shooting war …
Hagel, after weeks of pummeling by his former Republicans friends in the Senate, finally won confirmation Tuesday in a 58-41 vote in the Senate. He took over quickly from Leon Panetta, who is now – probably as these words are written – enjoying the rest of his life immensely at his home near Monterey Bay, Calif.
The former Republican senator from Nebraska, whom President Obama picked to run the Pentagon, is now facing the dreaded “sequestration” of funds to run his massive agency. Hagel is set to meet today with DoD employees to lay out his vision for how he intends to implement the president’s defense policy. But he’ll do so while bearing the tremendous burden of figuring out how it’ll work with the mandatory reductions in spending that the sequestration law will impose.
Hagel made history by becoming the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon. His combat as an Army infantryman in Vietnam was harrowing enough on his own. Now he’s facing this latest battle.
Welcome back to public life, Mr. Secretary.