Hagel Claims ‘Bloated’ Pentagon Comment Came Before Budget Control Act

FACT CHECK: Not true


Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel claimed Thursday his comment that the Pentagon was “bloated” was made prior to the passage of the Budget Control Act–which is not true:

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R., MO.): In talking about sequestration, you made a comment about, ‘There’s lots of bloat’ — I’m sure you’ve talked about this comment quite a bit and are very familiar with it, more than you were before you made it probably–in the Pentagon. What do you have in mind there? What is being done at the Pentagon that could maybe better be done somewhere else or is being duplicated somewhere else? I think in–maybe in the follow-up of that I saw you mentioned that things that should be in the State Department have gotten over in the Pentagon. Are there examples of that that we can work on and you’ll want to lead on?

HAGEL: Two things. First, that comment came in a large, extended interview about budgets–about everything. That interview was done in 2011, prior to the Budget Control Act just to get the time frame right on that. I never supported sequestration, by the way.

But the interview was not, in fact, prior to the passage of the Budget Control Act, as first noted by Jackson Diehl. Hagel was responding directly to a question about sequestration in a Sept. 1, 2011 interview with the Financial Times:

QUESTION: On this Joint Committee that’s being created, Leon Panetta, our defense secretary, has warned of really dire consequences to U.S. national security if this so-called trigger gets pulled, in which case we would see $600 billion in automatic cuts to the Defense Department. Do you agree with his assessment that that would be very harmful to national security.

HAGEL: Defense Department, I think, in many ways, has been bloated. So I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down. I don’t think that our military has really looked at themselves strategically, critically, in a long, long time.”