Defense

At Hagel hearing, hints on budgets and cybersecurity

Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, shown here in 2009, testified Jan. 31 at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel underwent a day of grilling in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31, when a hearing on his nomination for defense secretary became contentious at times, particularly among GOP members.

The former Republican lawmaker faced a barrage of questions about his previous comments and stance on issues including Iran, Israel and nuclear weapons, but in between he also fielded inquiries on how he would handle budget cuts, sequestration and cybersecurity if confirmed for the top Pentagon post.

When peppered with pointed questions about statements he made in 2011 about a "bloated" Defense Department that could be "pared down," Hagel said the comments, which have helped fuel opposition to his nomination, were taken out of context.

"That comment came in a long extended interview about budgets, about everything," Hagel said. "That interview was done in 2011 prior to the Budget Control Act. I never supported sequestration, by the way."

He went on to tell senators that he believes sequestration's sweeping cuts would be as devastating as current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly insisted.

"When you hang that kind of uncertainty over any institution, but especially the institution charged with national security in our country, it's very dangerous. We're going to have to reduce training, steaming time and flying time," Hagel said. "I think the American people do need to be reassured ... the security of this country is not going to be in jeopardy. But it's going to be difficult, and it's going to affect longer-term kinds of planning. Make no mistake, if this happens, this is going to be a severe problem."

When further pressed on how he would address budget cuts, Hagel pointed to DOD's redundancies and inefficiencies as top contenders for the chopping block.

"Much of the conversation has been about acquisition, about waste, fraud and abuse, billions of dollars. Why aren't we auditing these programs? Where's the accountability? That's certainly an area we're going to have to take a look at," he said. "The military has taken on a tremendous volume of assignments and [the] funding that goes with that. That needs to be sorted through. It has to be."

Still, in keeping with current policy, there is at least one area where Hagel appears to see the need for continued investment.

In prepared answers to the Senate's foreign policy questions, Hagel deemed cybersecurity a top priority and a major challenge, and he called on Congress to pass legislation after failing to do so following “three months of agony.” At the hearing, he reiterated that stance.

"Cyber represents as big a threat to this country as any significant threat. It's insidious, a quiet kind of threat we haven't quite seen before. It can paralyze a nation in a second," Hagel said. "Cyber is an area I'd focus on as defense secretary."

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.