Fischer offers pointed questions for Hagel, namely on nuclear arms -
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm / Updated at 2:49 pm
Fischer offers pointed questions for Hagel, namely on nuclear arms

WASHINGTON — Some of the toughest questions for Chuck Hagel on Thursday came from a fellow Nebraskan.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., told Hagel that she continues to harbor concerns about his nomination as defense secretary.

“Despite these recent claims to the contrary, you continue to hold, I believe, extreme views far to the left of even this administration,” Fischer told him.

She focused in on a report Hagel co-authored last year on reducing U.S. nuclear weapons.

“I believe there is a recommendation in there, and I believe that the recommendation is to drastically reduce the United States' nuclear forces,” Fischer said.

She specifically brought up part of the report that indicated U.S. ballistic missiles had lost their central utility. Hagel responded by saying the report was not a recommendation, but rather a series of possible scenarios.

Timeline of Chuck Hagel's political career

Spring 1971: Rep. John Y. McCollister (R-Neb.) hires Hagel in his D.C. office on $200 a week.

November 1996: After years in the private sector, Hagel defeats then-Gov. Ben Nelson to win a U.S. Senate seat.

November 2002: Hagel is re-elected to his Nebraska seat, garnering close to 83% of the vote.

September 2007: Hagel announces he'll retire following the conclusion of his second term and not seek the presidency in 2008.

October 2009: President Obama names Hagel a co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Council.

January 2013: Obama nominates Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense.

He also said the report, laid out reasons why ballistic missiles could lose relevance in the future.

“Those aren't fictional analyses,” Hagel said. “Those — those are facts.”

He noted that the report's authors include “serious people” such as Gen. James E. Cartwright, retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of U.S. nuclear forces.

“No one is recommending that we unilaterally do away with our ICBMs,” Hagel said.

“What that report was about was — was looking at where this is going. Again, the title of the report was 'Modernizing Our Nuclear Strategy,' not eliminating it.”

In a second round of questions, Fischer probed how Hagel would prioritize allocating funding among different priorities. She specifically brought up U.S. Strategic Command, which is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.

“StratCom is vitally important to the future of this country . . . Of the nine combatant commands, as you know, StratCom is one of them, that's a key command. So we have to continue to fund our commands and find ways to do that, but that's going to require some tough choices and hard decisions,” Hagel said.

Hagel endorsed Fischer's opponent last fall, Democrat Bob Kerrey. Fischer has said that would not factor into her decision on his nomination.

After Thursday's hearing, Fischer told The World-Herald that she wants to spend more time reviewing the transcript from Thursday's hearing before making a decision.

Contact the writer: 202-630-4823,

Contact the writer: Joseph Morton    |  

Joe is The World-Herald's Washington, D.C., bureau, covering national political developments that matter most to Midlanders.

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