U.S. defense chiefs back Hagel nomination

Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:08 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. defense leaders took to the airways to defend former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., President Barack Obama's choice to be the next secretary of defense.

Hagel faced a grueling confirmation hearing last week, sparring with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over the Iraq war policy of former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told NBC he was frustrated with last week's confirmation hearing. Panetta said Senate leaders ignored questions ranging from looming budget cuts to evolving terrorist threats in the Middle East.

"We just did not see enough time discussing those issues, and in the end, that's what counts," he said.

U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN Candy Crowley that he's "always concerned" when Afghanistan isn't a dominant talking point.

Hagel received overwhelming support from former U.S. secretaries of defense and national security advisers before last week's hearing. Despite a tough nomination hearing, he's expected to be confirmed as secretary of defense.

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