When former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee as President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, he will likely be grilled on his past statements about Iran, Israel and maybe even his views about sexual orientation. But former colleagues in the Republican Party are also likely to take him to task for his support for downsizing the U.S. nuclear force.
Even President Ronald Reagan called for a world without nuclear weapons. But Hagel, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.), has taken the talking point further than others in the party. He has signed onto a report by Global Zero that would reduce the U.S. and Russian stockpiles to a maximum of 900 total nuclear weapons over 10 years, on the way to completely eliminating the world’s deadliest weapons by 2030.
Coupled with the nomination of fellow foreign relations colleague Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state, Obama has created “a very strong team on arms control,” says John Isaacs, executive director of the disarmament advocacy group, Council for a Livable World.
The idea is an anathema to many congressional Republicans including Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who last year led the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. Turner is calling on Senate colleagues to carefully review the nomination and characterizing Hagel’s views as “at odds with mainstream thinking.”
Those views include “calls for drastic, and possibly unilateral, reductions in U.S. nuclear forces, eliminating the [intercontinental ballistic missile] leg of our nuclear deterrent and canceling our other nuclear modernization programs,” Turner says. “These are views that are so troubling that they ought to cause senators alarm over his nomination.”