Pentagon readies Hagel for confirmation fight
January 9th, 2013
12:00 AM ET

Pentagon readies Hagel for confirmation fight

By Mike Mount

Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel wasted no time in starting formal preparations for what is expected to be a bruising Senate confirmation fight.

One day after his nomination by President Barack Obama, the former Nebraska senator spent Tuesday at the Pentagon meeting key officials and settling in. There were no official briefings, officials said.

Hagel had dinner with outgoing secretary Leon Panetta on Monday night. Officials would not discuss what they talked about, only saying that they were served a Midwestern menu of steak and corn chowder - a nod to Hagel's Nebraska roots.

Over the next few weeks, Hagel and the team assigned to prep him for the Armed Services Committee hearing will spend much of their time in an area resembling a generic cubical farm. Hagel gets his own office.

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Filed under: Congress • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
January 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Obama makes telling foreign policy picks

President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to become Defense Secretary and tapped his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the message Obama is sending about foreign policy in his second term with these two top national security post nominations.

January 6th, 2013
09:19 PM ET

Chuck Hagel's views on war forged by Vietnam experience

By Mike Mount

Badly burned after his armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in Vietnam, Chuck Hagel sat in a medical evacuation helicopter thinking of the horrors he had experienced during combat.

"If I ever get out, if I ever can influence anything, I will do all I can to prevent war," he would later tell his biographer, Charlyne Berens.

It was a seminal moment for the young soldier turned Nebraska senator who sources now say will be nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next secretary of defense.

Should he be nominated to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Hagel would bring to the Pentagon a distinct bias against armed conflict forged during the Vietnam War. FULL POST

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Filed under: Secretary of Defense
January 6th, 2013
01:41 PM ET

Hagel nomination announcement planned for Monday

By CNN Political Unit

President Barack Obama plans to announce former Sen. Chuck Hagel as his nominee to become the next defense secretary on Monday, administration officials told CNN on Sunday.

Two sources close to Hagel have also been told to expect the defense secretary announcement on Monday, and additional sources – a senior administration official and a source familiar with the nomination – said Obama spoke to Hagel Sunday by telephone.

The White House was calling senators' offices Sunday to inform them Hagel's nomination is imminent and to help build support for it, a source familiar with the nomination said. CNN reported Friday that the White House had told some senior members of Congress to expect the tapping of Hagel, and another source with knowledge of the nomination called it "locked down." FULL POST

December 21st, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Hagel's defense posture forged by war experience

By Mike Mount

Badly burned after his armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in Vietnam, Hagel sat in a medical evacuation helicopter thinking of the horrors he had experienced during his time in combat there.

Sitting on that helicopter with injuries that would take years to heal, Hagel thought to himself, "If I ever get out, if I ever can influence anything, I will do all I can to prevent war," Hagel would later tell his biographer, Charlyne Berens.

The moment became a seminal one for the young soldier who volunteered to join the Army and ended up serving a year-long tour in 1968 during the Tet Offensive, considered the most violent time of that war.

If former Senator Chuck Hagel gets nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense, it won't be a smooth ride to confirmation.

Getting to the Pentagon will mean overcoming an already vocal opposition from pro-Israel groups and others who object to his stance on Iran and Hamas. One group began running ads on Washington-area television stations on Thursday, even though the administration has not said he is the president's choice.

He faced new opposition late this week from gay rights groups, who were strong supporters of President Obama's election campaigns, for a comment Hagel made in 1998 in which Hagel questioned whether a nominee for ambassadorship was suitable because he was "openly aggressively gay."

Should he be selected to replace Leon Panetta though, he will bring to the Pentagon a distinct bias towards avoiding armed conflict.

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Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet
November 20th, 2012
09:48 PM ET

Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet

By Larry Shaughnessy

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.

Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."

He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."

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Filed under: 10 years of war • Abu Yahya al-Libi • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Benghazi • Diplomacy • drones • Libya • Mali • Nigeria • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Somalia • Special Operations Forces • Yemen
National Guard forces respond in storm-struck states
Sgt. Michael Ryno along with soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard provide assistance to residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy at an emergency shelter in Piscataway Township, N.J.,
October 30th, 2012
05:11 PM ET

National Guard forces respond in storm-struck states

By Larry Shaughnessy

Governors from North Carolina to New England activated National Guard forces to respond to flooding and other damage from Sandy.

The most immediate demand was for Humvees and military trucks able to negotiate high waters.

The New Jersey Guard launched a helicopter to get a look at damage along hard-hit shore areas. One stretch showed sand washing into homes at least 100 yards from the normal high tide line.
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Filed under: Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
Gates says defense secretary role was his life's 'highest calling'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (right) and his predecessor Robert Gates share a laugh during the unveiling ceremony.
October 29th, 2012
08:30 PM ET

Gates says defense secretary role was his life's 'highest calling'

By Jennifer Rizzo

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates evoked laughter during the unveiling of his official portrait Monday, but said his time heading up the military was the most important job in a long career in Washington.

“As America's Secretary of Defense during two wars was the singular honor and highest calling of my professional life,” Gates said at the Pentagon

Sending troops to war weighed on him every day, he said, so much so that he worried his devotion to protect them was clouding his judgment.

“Towards the end of my time in office, I could barely speak to the troops or about them without becoming over, without being overcome with emotion,” Gates said.

These feelings he says played a role in his decision to retire.

Gates began his role as Defense Secretary in 2006 under President George W. Bush. When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 Gates stayed on in his role, despite plans of retiring—something he jokingly said he had current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to thank for.
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Filed under: Gates • Military • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
Panetta: Cyber threat is pre 9/11 moment
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
October 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Panetta: Cyber threat is pre 9/11 moment

By Pam Benson

The United States must beef up its cyber defenses or suffer as it did on September 11, 2001 for failing to see the warning signs ahead of that devastating terrorist attack, the Secretary of Defense told a group of business leaders in New York Thursday night.

Calling it a “pre-9/11 moment,” Leon Panetta said he is particularly worried about a significant escalation of attacks.

In a speech aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier, Panetta reminded the Business Executives for National Security about recent distributed denial of service attacks that hit a number of large U.S. financial institutions with unprecedented speed, disrupting services to customers.

And he pointed to a cyber virus known as Shamoon which infected the computers of major energy firms in Saudi Arabia and Qatar this past summer. More than 30-thousand computers were rendered useless by the attack on the Saudi state oil company ARAMCO. A similar incident occurred with Ras Gas of Qatar. Panetta said the attacks were probably the most devastating to ever hit the private sector.

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Filed under: 9/11 • Congress • Cybersecurity • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
Critic: "Absurd" for Panetta to call Taliban attacks a "last gasp"
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff brief reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday.
September 27th, 2012
08:09 PM ET

Critic: "Absurd" for Panetta to call Taliban attacks a "last gasp"

By Larry Shaughnessy

One of Washington's foremost analysts of military issues has some harsh words about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's take on the insider attack problem in Afghanistan, calling it "absurd."

During a recent trip to Japan, Panetta was asked about U.S. and other International Security Assistance Force troops being killed by members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents dressed like them.

He said, "And we think, frankly, it is kind of a last gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces, but to try to create chaos, because they've been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost." On Thursday, Panetta reiterated his point during a briefing with reporters, saying, "It's near the end of their effort to really fully fight back."

"Quite frankly i think that most intelligent people and military people would privately think that Secretary Panetta's comments are absurd, perhaps harmful. Because they just can't be taken seriously," said Anthony Cordesman a senior analyst at CSIS, a major Washington think tank, and a recipient of Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his work at the Pentagon before joining CSIS. "They are not at the last gasp, all they really have to do is at this point outwait us, constantly put pressure on areas that give them political visibility. They don't have to defeat ISAF, it's leaving."

While Cordesman does not agree with Panetta's remarks, he says that doesn't mean the Taliban is on the road to victory.

"The fact that statement clearly is untrue doesn't mean that necessarily the Taliban can win," Cordesman said. "Whether this will give them control of the country or not is something nobody can determine. It's a long way from talking about last gasp."

Even Panetta conceded Thursday that insider attacks may not be the Taliban's final arrow in their insurgent quiver. "Whether or not, you know, it's the end of their bag of tactics to come at us I think is still an open question."

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