Hagel Draws Bipartisan Backing from Past Secretaries of Defense, State

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Accompanied by CIA Spokesperson Marie Harf, former Senator Chuck Hagel leaves the Capitol Hill offices of Sen. John McCain after the two Vietnam War veterans met on Jan. 22, 2013 in Washington.

Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s drive to win confirmation as Defense Secretary got an added push today as a group of former Secretaries of State, Defense and National Security Advisers sent all 100 senators a letter of endorsement.

“His approach to national security and debates about the use of American power is marked by a disciplined habit of thoughtfulness that is sorely needed and these qualities will serve him well as Secretary of Defense at a time when the United States must address a range of international issues that are unprecedented in scope,” said the letter,signed by 13 former top officials that included Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, and Melvin Laird, Defense Secretary under President Richard Nixon.

“Our extensive experience working with Senator Hagel over the years has left us confident that he has the necessary background to succeed in the job of leading the largest federal agency,” the bipartisan crew wrote.

Other signatories included George Shultz, Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan; Samuel Berger, National Security Adviser underl Clinton; and Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter.

Meanwhile, Hagel continued a round of one-on-one meetings with  senators today, picking up endorsements from additional Senate Democrats. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that will hear his testimony next week, said in a statement that Hagel has won her over with his “strong, unwavering support of Israel” as well as his commitment to building relationships with NATO and other allies.

Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also a member of the Armed Services panel, said Hagel can count on his support, too.

“Chuck is a combat veteran and foot soldier who has a unique understanding of the challenges faced by our men and women in uniform, and a practical leader who understands the need for common sense in military spending and national security strategy,” Manchin said in a prepared statement.


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