I am 72 years old and have followed politics my entire life.
I also spent 42 years working in defense electronics at Magnavox and successor companies. In addition I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I take the defense of our great nation seriously. I believe that this qualifies me to appraise a Secretary of Defense nominee.
As a Navy veteran, I would normally be predisposed to accept a Vietnam veteran and twice-wounded hero without question. However Charles Hagel’s later life, his admitted lack of knowledge and his evasive hearing testimony weighs stronger on my evaluation.
I have never witnessed a candidate for Cabinet appointment who delivered such a hapless performance.
It was unnecessary for him to admit his lack of knowledge on weapons systems; it was apparent that while a senator he did not learn much about the systems he voted to fund. His lack of knowledge did not keep him from being a very vocal critic of the Department of Defense.
One could say that a defense secretary who had advocated downsizing would be a great leader at this time when we are facing the need for austerity. I argue that this makes it vital that the leader have intimate knowledge and love of the defense department to make the critical decisions.
We cannot afford an uninformed decision-maker determining the future of a downsized defense infrastructure. I also believe that we cannot afford the time it would take for him to scale a steep learning curve.
We face a sequester that may be softened, but the consequences cannot be avoided. No matter the outcome of the spending votes, the Department of Defense will bear the brunt since the Senate lacks the political courage to take on a bloated entitlement structure.
Fighting two wars as we waged a war of attrition on military infrastructure, the costs of increased manpower have already decimated the defense industry. Programs were deferred or stretched out at lower run rates. A strong argument could be made for more investment in infrastructure if the national debt were not stratospheric.
In the hearing Hagel tried countless times to disavow his prior actions but was unconvincing since his convictions on his adversarial beliefs on the department kept showing through. I was disappointed that the committee did not question him on his votes. His voting record was anti-defense and in retrospect wrong for history. When speaking on a nuclear Iran, he actually was to the left of President Obama until one of his handlers corrected him and he had to backtrack.
Hagel’s record on unilateral disarmament, disengagement, U.S. retreat as a world military power, lack of support for vital allies, adversarial position on Israel and suspension of skepticism on Iran’s nuclear ambition cannot be allowed in someone whose job is to protect the security of our people.
The U.S. faces resurgence of al-Qaida and other jihads, terrorism, a near-nuclear Iran, continued Syrian attacks on its citizens, an ascendant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, unstable leadership in North Korea, an increasingly militant China and uncertainty over Russia’s ambitions with regard to its weaker neighbors.
The country cannot afford Hagel as secretary of defense. Northeast Indiana cannot have uninformed program cuts if this vital but weakened industry asset is going to survive.