House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.) has opposed the nomination of former Republican Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as the nation’s next defense secretary following a day of Senate hearings that saw Hagel struggling to answer his most prominent critics.
McKeon had refrained from coming out against Hagel ahead of the hearings, explaining in a statement Wednesday that he hoped the nominee would reverse his most controversial positions.
McKeon said late Thursday Hagel failed to allay his concerns following a full day of testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee:
When President Obama nominated Senator Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense, I was open –with reservations – to the possibility that Mr. Hagel possessed both the qualifications and abilities to meet the lofty demands of office.
Unfortunately, in confusing and contradictory testimony, he created more concerns than he allayed. His refusal to shut the door on further defense cuts put him at stark odds with the current Defense Secretary and military leaders. His ambiguous and evolving positions on Iran raised more questions than answers. And his shifting, evasive answers on the future of America’s nuclear deterrent were deeply troubling.
It pains me to reach this conclusion, given Senator Hagel’s service in the armed forces and in the Senate; but at this vital time when our national security hangs in the balance, it is my opinion that Senator Hagel is unfit for the job of Secretary of Defense. When it comes to the safety of this nation, the security of our troops, and the well-being of the American people, we can and must do better. I urge President Obama to submit a viable nominee as soon as possible.