Sen. Hagel would leave our nation weaker

Mauricio Claver-Carone at NBC News:

In this Jan. 31, 2013 file photo, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee's confirmation hearing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. is raising the possibility of a filibuster of  Hagel to be defense secretary. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Op-ed: Sen. Hagel would leave our nation weaker

America must continue to be a force for freedom and security in the world, and to do so, our nation needs a strong military.  All Americans can agree on that, whether Republican, Democrat or independent.  Unfortunately, former Senator Chuck Hagel, the President’s nominee for Defense Secretary, supports policies that would leave our nation weaker and less able or willing to support liberty abroad.  The Senate should not confirm Senator Hagel.

Our military cannot defend our nation and support free nations worldwide without the resources they need to do their jobs.  However, when asked one year ago about the impact of huge cuts to defense due to sequestration – which takes effect in March – Senator Hagel appeared to welcome such cuts, saying the defense budget was “bloated” and the Pentagon “needs to be pared down.”  But indiscriminate sequestration wouldn’t just trim the fat; it would gut the very muscle of our defense.  In fact, one of the President’s close allies, former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, said Hagel would make “huge cuts” as Defense Secretary. 

The Department of Defense is already facing hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed cuts by the Administration.  Sequestration cuts defense by 18 percent across the board – $500 billion over the next decade.  These cuts will affect all defense spending, without prioritizing; our war in Afghanistan, our operations in the critical Persian Gulf region, our soldiers’ benefits, and equipment maintenance – all will be hit by these cuts.  We will have the smallest army, navy and air force levels in decades.  These are the consequences of the kinds of slash-and-burn defense cuts that Senator Hagel seems to back.

But don’t just take my word for it that the cuts Hagel supports are foolhardy – listen to current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who testified before Congress last year that sequestration “guarantees that we are going to hollow the [military] force and devastate our national security.”  Panetta later testified, for good measure, that sequestration is “a nutty formula and … it’s not something, frankly, that anybody who is responsible ought to put into effect.”  Panetta’s successor needs to work with Congress to avert these looming cuts, and quickly.  While nominee Hagel now says he opposes sequestration, there’s no reason to think that a Defense Secretary Hagel, once confirmed, won’t revert to his old ways and make such reckless cuts a reality.

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