Chuck Hagel

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Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel.jpg
U.S. Secretary of Defense
In office
February 27, 2013-Present
Elections and appointments
NominatedJanuary 7, 2013
ConfirmedFebruary 26, 2013
AppointedFebruary 27, 2013
Appointed byBarack Obama
Prior offices
U.S. Senator from Nebraska
Deputy Administrator for the Veterans Administration
High schoolSt. Bonaventure High School
Bachelor'sUniversity of Nebraska at Omaha
Military service
Service/branchU.S. Army, Sargeant
Years of service1967-1968
CitationsVietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Purple Heart (x2), the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge
Date of birthOctober 4, 1946
Place of birthNorth Platte, Nebraska
ReligionRoman Catholic
Office website
Charles Timothy Hagel (b. October 4, 1946, in North Platte, NE) is the current United States Secretary of Defense. Hagel was confirmed by the Senate on February 26, 2013.[1] He is the first enlisted combat veteran to hold the position of secretary of defense.[2]

Hagel previously served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under the Reagan administration and was a member of the U.S. Senate representing Nebraska from 1996 to 2009.[3]


Hagel attended St. Bonaventure High School in Nebraska. After high school, he enrolled at the Brown Institute for Radio and Television in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1966.[4] He dropped out of school to serve in the army during the Vietnam War where he fought alongside his brother, Tom, in 1968.[3] He and Tom ended up saving each others' lives on different occasions and earned five Purple Hearts between them.[1] Following his term of service in the army, Hagel graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

He continued his public service by joining Representative John McCollister's staff until becoming a lobbyist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1977.[1] President Reagan then appointed Hagel to the position of deputy administrator for the Veterans Administration, a position he used to help those who had been affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam.[3] Following his term in 1982, he worked as president and director of a number of private sector businesses including Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc. until his 1996 election to the United States Senate.[1] After his second term, Hagel retired and taught national governance at Georgetown University before accepting President Obama's nomination to be secretary of defense.[1]


Below is an abbreviated outline of Hagel's academic, professional and political career:[1][3][4]

  • 1966-1967: Attended Brown Institute for Radio and Television
  • 1967-1969: Served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam
  • 1971: Graduated from University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • 1971-1977: Served on the staff of Nebraska Representative John McCollister
  • 1977-1980: Lobbyist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
  • 1981-1982: Appointed to Deputy Administrator for the Veterans Administrations
  • 1982-1985: President and Co-founder of Collins, Hagel and Clarke, Inc.
  • 1982: Deputy Commissioner General for the World's Fair, Knoxville, TN
  • 1984-1987: Director and Executive Vice President of Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc.
  • 1987-1990: President and CEO of World United Service Organizations
  • 1990-1992: President and CEO of Private Sector Council of Washington, D.C.
  • 1992-1996: President of McCarthy and Co.
  • 1997-2009: United States Senator from Nebraska
  • 2009-2013: Professor of National Governance in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • 2013-Present: United States Secretary of Defense

Confirmation vote

Chuck Hagel confirmation vote, February 26, 2013
Party Votes for Approveda Votes against Defeatedd Total votes
Democratic Party Democrats 52 0 52
Republican Party Republicans 4 41 45
Independent Independents 2 0 2
Total Votes 58 41 99



On November 5, 2002, Chuck Hagel won re-election to the United States Senate. He defeated Charlie A. Matulka (D), Phil Chase (I) and John J. Graziano (L) in the general election.[6]

U.S. Senate, Nebraska General Election, 2002
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngChuck Hagel incumbent 82.8% 397,438
     Democratic Charlie A. Matulka 14.6% 70,290
     Independent Phil Chase 1.1% 5,066
     Libertarian John J. Graziano 1.5% 7,423
Total Votes 480,217


On November 5, 1996, Chuck Hagel won election to the United States Senate. He defeated Ben Nelson (D) in the general election.[7]

U.S. Senate, Nebraska General Election, 1996
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngChuck Hagel 57.4% 379,933
     Democratic Ben Nelson 42.6% 281,904
Total Votes 661,837

Secretary of Defense term initiatives


Executive Departments of the United States

Executive Departments
Department of DefenseDepartment of StateDepartment of Homeland SecurityDepartment of JusticeDepartment of CommerceDepartment of EducationDepartment of the TreasuryDepartment of AgricultureDepartment of EnergyDepartment of LaborDepartment of TransportationDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of Health and Human ServicesDepartment of Veterans AffairsDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

Department Secretaries
Ashton CarterJohn KerryJeh JohnsonLoretta LynchPenny PritzkerArne DuncanJack LewTom VilsackErnest MonizTom PerezAnthony FoxxSally JewellSylvia Mathews BurwellRobert McDonaldJulian Castro

Military downsizing

On February 24, 2014, Hagel released a budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Defense suggesting the size of the American armed forces be dropped to pre-World War II levels. "You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can't carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war," said one senior Pentagon official. The U.S. Army would be dropped to 440,000-450,000 in the coming years, down from the peak of 570,000 after September 11, 2001. President Obama's proposal coming into office would have dropped the Army down to 490,000, but Hagel deemed more cuts necessary in light of both the political and economic landscape in the federal government.[8]

Ethics investigations

On February 5, 2014, Hagel ordered in-depth investigations into multiple ethics violations in the armed services. Drug use in the Air Force, bribery and cheating allegations in the Navy and fraudulent payments and kickbacks in the Army and National Guard sparked the ethics crackdown by Secretary Hagel. A spokesperson of the secretary stated, "And he’s concerned about the depth of it,” Kirby said. “I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and that’s what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it."[9]

Military sexual assault cases

On August 15, 2013, Secretary Hagel announced sweeping reforms to the handling of sexual assault accusations in the U.S. military. Per a Pentagon survey, sexual assault cases rose to 26,000 in 2012 from 19,000 in 2010.[10] The Department felt pressure from President Obama to enact the reforms, which include improved legal support for victims, transfers for accused to eliminate future contact and required follow-up actions throughout the chain of command.[10][11] Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the armed services committee stated that while it is a step in the right direction, all sexual assault cases in the military should be judged by an independent body.[10]


Bergdahl exchange

The Obama administration exchanged five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31, 2014. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and held captive just across the border in Pakistan.[12] Bergdahl has been accused of deserting his unit before being captured, leading to more controversy over whether or not the administration should have made a deal with the Taliban. Critics claimed the action showed American weakness by setting the precedent that the United States would make deals with terrorists. The House Armed Services committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) went further and insisted President Obama violated the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act by not giving Congress at least 30 days notice before engaging in talks to get Bergdahl back.[13]

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed the exchange was rushed due to Bergdahl's "deteriorating" health. Secretary Hagel also defended the exchange and hoped it would create "a new opening" in future talks with the Taliban.[13] When asked the reasoning behind the negotiations on June 3, 2014, President Obama explained, "Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that. He also stated that the administration had been consulting with Congress prior to the swap, a statement House Intelligence committee chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) disputed, stating, "In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back. We hadn't heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reported that he was told of the exchange but only "the day before or the day of."[14]


Department budget

U.S. Department of Defense[15] Annual Budget
YearBudget (in billions)% Difference from previous year
  • Note: 2014 only represents the Department's budget request, not an enacted budget.


Hagel and his wife, Lilibet, have two children.[4]

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External links

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Chuck Hagel


Political offices
Preceded by
Leon Panetta
U.S. Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James Exon
U.S. Senate - Nebraska
Succeeded by
Mike Johanns