A Nebraska native, UNO graduate and Vietnam War veteran is now the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and he comes in to the position at a time when the Defense Department faces major budget cuts.
Chuck Hagel was sworn in Wednesday morning, two days before $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester take effect. Rick Witmer, associate professor of Political Science at Creighton University, says Hagel is in an "unenviable" position.
"The first question he’s going to have to deal with is, how do you go about removing what a large portion of the Pentagon’s budget is for the next year, I mean, that’s military readiness, and he’s going to have to deal with a lot of these questions. So he’s in an unenviable position coming out of a tough confirmation battle."
Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado teaches Political Science at UNO. He says Hagel must make the case for keeping critical Defense programs in place.
"I think obviously there’s a lot of waste in terms of what goes on in the Department of Defense, but, you know, how do you balance that against the critical national security needs that we confront today? We’re dealing mostly with non-state actors, it isn’t the Soviet Union out there looming on the horizon, it’s things that we possibly haven’t considered yet."
Alvarado and Witmer say Hagel brings a unique perspective to the job as Defense Secretary because of his military service.
The Senate approved Hagel’s nomination on a 58-41 vote. Senator Deb Fischer voted against Hagel’s confirmation. Senator Mike Johanns was one of four Republicans who voted in favor of Hagel.