By Barbara Starr
Even as furloughed civilian Defense Department workers streamed out of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began working half a world away to get all 400,000 furloughed personnel globally back to work.
“Hagel is looking to get as many people back to work as soon as he can,” a senior defense official told CNN on Tuesday.
Hagel, who is traveling in Asia, hinted to reporters about what exactly he has in mind and it centers around a law quickly passed on Monday to keep troops and some essential civilian workers paid.
By Jennifer Liberto
The Defense Department is giving its employees a break by trimming furlough days.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that furloughs for workers would be cut to 6 days, from 11. Employees will take their last furloughs next week, instead of late September.
Hagel said he was able to win the reprieve by finding savings and cuts in other areas.
Ever since July 8, some 650,000 defense workers have been taking one unpaid day off each week. It has effectively cut employee pay about 20% for nearly three months. The savings from 11 furlough days was only about $1.8 billion, a sliver of the $40 billion that the Pentagon had to cut as part of the sequester, or forced federal spending cuts.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower Wednesday, telling rising military officers "the wise and prudent administration of the vast resources required by defense calls for extraordinary skill."
In his first major policy speech since taking over the Pentagon, Hagel focused on the budget problems facing the Defense Department and the rest of the government.
"A combination of fiscal pressures and a gridlocked political process has led to far more abrupt and deeper reductions than were planned for or expected. Now DoD is grappling with the serious and immediate challenge of sequester - which is forcing us to take as much as a $41 billion cut in this current fiscal year," Hagel said at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
By Matt Smith
When the Senate Armed Services Committee is gaveled into session Thursday, Chuck Hagel is likely to face some sharp questions from many of his old colleagues.
If confirmed as secretary of defense, the one-time infantry sergeant and twice-wounded Vietnam veteran would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon. The former Republican senator from Nebraska gets his chance to answer questions Thursday morning during his confirmation hearing, and here are five subjects where he can expect them.FULL STORY
By Jessica Yellin and Adam Aigner-Treworgy
When former Sen. Chuck Hagel appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, don’t expect him to dwell on controversial statements from his past. Instead, allies say, he’ll focus on the present.
He will testify that if confirmed to be the next Secretary of Defense, he will be fully supportive of the president’s policies, including a preference for diplomacy but a willingness to use force, an Obama administration official working on the senator’s confirmation hearing told CNN.
Hagel has been slammed for his past opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, and critics have questioned his support for Israel. This official says Hagel will testify Thursday morning that he believes Iran is a state sponsor of terror; he supports the president’s sanctions strategy against Iran and believes all options should be on the table including the military option. He’ll also testify that it’s his view that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.FULL STORY
By Pam Benson
Satellite imagery of a North Korean nuclear test site identifies what could be key installations that would likely play a prominent role if Kim Jong Un orders a test, which the government threatened to do on Thursday.
The analysis of the Pung-gye-Ri Nuclear Test site by U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North blog shows recently completed structures essential to an underground nuclear weapons test.
One is believed to be a command and control bunker. Another photo shows what appears to be a radio relay system that zigzags through a valley, which the 38North analysts believe could be used as part of a communications system linking the bunker to the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang.
"Located about 150 meters (164 yards) north of the test tunnel entrance, the bunker, used only when a test is about to be conducted, would contain equipment for controlling the nuclear device, managing instruments for gathering test data and communicating with authorities in Pyongyang," the report stated. "The bunker would also provide shelter for all personnel in the area."
By Gregory Wallace
Sen. John McCain, prominent among the Washington ranks who have questioned former Sen. Chuck Hagel's suitability for the top Defense Department post, said Sunday he will not exert his power to block Hagel's nomination.
"No," he told CNN when asked directly whether he would block the nomination in the Senate. "I plan to make a judgment as to whether I think he's appropriate to be Secretary of Defense or not."
Each senator has the power to prevent a nomination from advancing to the floor, and one of McCain's close colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has suggested he would put President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA on hold while awaiting answers on the U.S. Consulate attack in September in Benghazi, Libya.
McCain said he does not plan to block that nomination or that of John Brennan for the CIA, either. He said he does have questions for both.
By CNN Staff
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the military to begin implementing cost-cutting measures aimed at mitigating the risk of significant budget cuts should Congress fail to reach a deal in coming months to avert or soften them.
"We have no idea what the hell is going to happen," Panetta said Thursday.
He has asked services to begin "prudent" measures, including curtailing maintenance for non-critical activities and delaying hiring.
The measures must be "reversible" and minimize harmful impacts on military readiness, Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.
Military departments have also been told to report on how they would implement deep automatic spending cuts, called sequester, and enforce unpaid leave for civilian employees should the reductions occur.
Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have warned Congress that uncertainty over the absence of a long-term spending agreement, debt-ceiling concerns and the lack of a full congressional budget process is extremely harmful.
By Mike Mount
Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up to the Pentagon on Thursday with a wish list of military equipment to ensure the security of his country by the time NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.
In return, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a message to deliver – the United States wants to make sure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven again.
Karzai's meeting with Panetta, occurring under a cloud of mistrust between both countries, was expected to have some tough talk about the future of Afghanistan. But publicly, the image seemed like there was no trouble at all.
It was the first stop for the Afghan president who was to have dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday and meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
By Chris Lawrence and Mike Mount
On his second day at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is trying to set his Iran record straight, saying he supports tough international sanctions against the country in an attempt to counter complaints by critics who say he favored talking directly with the government in Tehran, according to Defense officials with direct knowledge of the nominee’s conversations Wednesday.
Hagel told Pentagon staff he also believes all options in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, including military action, should be on the table, according to the officials.
The nominee has begun meeting with Defense staff as he prepares for his confirmation hearing. That hearing is expected to be held in late January or early February, though no specific date has been chosen, according to a Senate staffer.
One of the Defense officials said Hagel wanted to set the record straight and that he believes he has been misrepresented by his critics.
The messaging is “part of a bigger effort; he’s also been reaching out to the Jewish community on their concerns, doing the same to the gay community. He’s making the appropriate rounds,” according to the official.