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Chuck Hagel (SIADD)

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Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel (SIADD)
7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Assumed office
January 20, 2009
President John McCain
Preceded by James Peake
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
January 7, 1997 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by J. James Exon
Succeeded by Mike Johanns
Deputy Administrator of Veteran Affairs United States Senate Majority Leader
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Personal details
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Political party Repubican Party (USA) Logo Republican
Spouse(s) Lilibet Hagel
Children Allyn Hagel
Ziller Hagel
Residence Omaha, Nebraska
Alma mater University of Nebraska at Omaha
Occupation Politician, electronics executive
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance Flag of the United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1967–1968
Rank US Army E-5 insignia Sergeant
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry
Combat Infantry Badge

Charles Timothy "Chuck" Hagel (born October 4, 1946) is a former United States Senator from Nebraska who is currently serving as the 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. A member of the Republican Party, he was first elected in 1996 and was reelected in 2002. He is a veteran of combat in Vietnam and was Deputy Administrator of Veteran Affairs under President Ronald Reagan between 1981 and 1982.

On December 7, 2008, then-President-elect John McCain announced at he would nominate Hagel to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on January 20, 2009 and sworn in the next day.

Early life and family

Born in North Platte, Nebraska, to Betty Dunn Hagel and Charles Dean Hagel, who had German and Polish ancestry, he graduated from St. Bonaventure High School (now Scotus Central Catholic High School) in Columbus, Nebraska, the Brown Institute for Radio and Television in 1966 and the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1971. Hagel is a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the United States Army infantry, attaining the rank of Sergeant (E-5) from 1967 – 1968. While serving during the Vietnam War, he received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. After returning from Vietnam, Hagel worked as a bartender and radio newscaster while finishing college.

Hagel married Lilibet Ziller in April 1985. The couple live with their daughter, Allyn and son, Ziller, in McLean, Virginia.

Hagel has two brothers: Thomas, also a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, is a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law, and Mike, an accomplished and well known artist who currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Hagel's third brother, Jim, died in a tragic car accident at the age of 16.

Career in Washington

In 1971, Hagel was hired as a staffer for Congressman John Y. McCollister (R-NE), serving until 1977. For the next four years, he worked as a lobbyist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and, in 1980, he served as an organizer for the successful presidential campaign of former California Governor Ronald Reagan.

After Reagan's inauguration as President, Hagel was named deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration. In 1982, however, he resigned his post over a disagreement with V.A. Administrator Robert P. Nimmo, who was intent on cutting funding for V.A. programs, and who had referred to veterans groups as "greedy", and to Agent Orange as not much worse than a "little teenage acne".

Business Career

After leaving government employment, Hagel co-founded Vanguard Cellular, a mobile phone manufacturer that made him a multi-millionaire. While working with Vanguard, he served as president and chief executive officer of the United Service Organizations and the Private Sector Council, as deputy director and chief operating officer of the 1990 G7 Summit, and on the board of directors or advisory committee of the American Red Cross, the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, Bread for the World, and the Ripon Society. He also served as Chairman of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Although he was pressured by some to run for Governor of Virginia, where he had lived for 20 years, in 1992 Hagel moved back to Nebraska to become president of the McCarthy Group, an investment banking firm. He also served as a Chairman and was CEO of American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), a voting machine manufacturer, this same company electronically counted 80% of the votes in the state in the very same election that he had his stunning upset. He did not disclose his position as CEO of the company in his mandated disclosures, until its name-change to Election Systems and Software (ES&S) in 1997. He had ownership interest in ES&S through its parent company The McCarthy Group as of January 29, 2003, when The Hill reported that, due to his ownership interest, “Hagel’s ethics filings pose disclosure issue”.

Senate career

In 1996, Hagel ran for the US Senate against Ben Nelson, who was the sitting governor of Nebraska. Although many people believed he had no chance of winning, he won a "stunning upset" in the election, receiving 56% of the vote (Nelson was later elected to Nebraska's other Senate seat, in 2000). Before running for the Senate, Hagel assumed ownership of ES&S, the voting machine company responsible for computerizing Nebraska's voting system. Hagel won virtually all demographic groups in the 1996 election, including many black precincts that had always voted Democratic in previous elections. He was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, with the outcome determined on paperless voting machines he sold to Nebraska immediately prior to the election. During his first campaign, Hagel indicated that, were he to be elected, he would retire in 2008 after two terms in the Senate.[9] Six years later in 2002, Hagel overwhelmingly won re-election with over 83% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in any statewide race in Nebraska history.

Since his election to the Senate in 1996, Hagel served as deputy whip for the Republican Caucus. He was chair of both the Senate Global Climate Change Observer Group and the Senate Oversight Task Force. He served as co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also served on the NATO Observer Group. Hagel was a member of four Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Rules and Administration.

Hagel's name was widely rumoured to be one of those considered by George W. Bush as a potential running mate in the 2000 election. In October 2002, Hagel voted in favor of authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. In August 2004, Hagel acknowledged that he was considering a presidential campaign in 2008.

On immigration, Senator Hagel supports a "pathway to citizenship" and a "guest worker program" for undocumented immigrants. On May 25, 2006 he voted for S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which passed the Senate before reaching a stalemate in the House in late 2006. On June 26, 2007, Hagel joined with Senator Ted Kennedy to support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1639).

In July 2007, Hagel was one of three Republican Senators who supported the legislation proposed by Democrats to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days.

This thing is really coming undone quickly, and [Prime Minister] Maliki's government is weaker by the day. The police are corrupt, top to bottom. The oil problem is a huge problem. They still can't get anything through the parliament—no hydrocarbon law, no de-Baathification law, no provincial elections.

Nebraska State Attorney General Jon Bruning announced plans to challenge him in the primaries in 2008 if he did not retire.[citation needed] After considering running in the 2008 presidential election, Hagel announced in 2007 that he would retire from the Senate at the end of his present term and would not seek the presidency. He has joined the faculty of Georgetown University as a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance and will begin teaching in the fall of 2009.

Senator Hagel's differences with his party's platform on Iraq are reflected in a change to his voting record. As reported in:

... [A]ccording to Congressional Quarterly, in 2006 he voted with the President ninety-six per cent of the time... Hagel's support for Bush's policies declined—in 2007, he voted with the President just seventy-two per cent of the time.

Hagel had a tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween, usually masquerading as colleagues or other notable political figures. He has arrived at work dressed as Joe Biden, John McCain, Colin Powell, and Pat Roberts in past years.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Foreign Relations
    • Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
    • Subcommittee on African Affairs
    • Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
    • Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection (Ranking Member)
  • Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment
    • Subcommittee on Financial Institutions (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development
  • Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Committee on Rules and Administration

Criticism of the Bush Administration

On August 18, 2005, Hagel compared the Iraq War to Vietnam and openly mocked Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes".

In November 2005, Hagel made a much-publicized statement: "To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic." (This was in reference to the lack of open debate in Congress regarding the Iraq War, and in defense of his assertion that the United States should withdraw its troops.) In December 2005, in reference to Bush, the Republican Party, and the PATRIOT Act, Hagel made a much-publicized statement:

I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president.

In January 2006, Hagel took issue with Karl Rove over controversial statements the White House advisor made concerning the mindset of Republicans and Democrats. Hagel said, "Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context." He also said that "dark clouds" are hanging over the Republican party, and "If you look at the environment and the atmospherics politically in this town, read any poll. The sixth year of a governing party usually ... is not good ... the country is tired, a lot of complications in these international issues, we're at war." Hagel further criticized the Bush administration, saying, "National security is more important than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. And to use it to try to get someone elected will ultimately end up in defeat and disaster for that political party."

In July 2006, Hagel again took issue with the Bush administration, this time on its handling of the Israel-Lebanon issue saying "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop." Following heavy Republican losses in the 2006 midterm election, Hagel penned an editorial in the Washington Post highly critical of military strategies both employed and proposed for Iraq. He unequivocally declared that "There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq," and called for a "phased troop withdrawal" — making Hagel one of the most prominent voices in his party to do so.

According to a SurveyUSA poll, Hagel has a 10% higher approval rating among Nebraska Democrats than Republicans. rates Hagel as a "libertarian-leaning conservative".

In January 2007, Hagel openly criticized President Bush's plan to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq. He called it, "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." Together with Democrats Joseph Biden and Carl Levin he proposed a non-binding resolution to the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which rejected Bush's policy as "not in the national interest" in a 12-9 vote. However, in a Senate vote of 94-2 to revoke executive power to replace federal prosecutors without a preliminary hearing, Senator Hagel and Senator Kit Bond were the only opposition.

After an April 2007 visit to Iraq with Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Joe Sestak, Hagel expressed his belief that the occupation of Iraq should not continue indefinitely and defended Congressional actions to set a timeline for an end in occupation. In July 2007, Hagel expressed his intention to cooperate with Senate Democrats in voting for a bill that would set a timeline to get out of Iraq.

In November 2007, he rated the Bush administration "the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus — almost every area" of any presidency in the last forty years. He also revealed he was open to running as vice-president with the 2008 Democratic nominee. In the same month, he said, "I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen or ever read about."

Despite his criticisms of the Bush administration, Hagel voted 78.1% of the time with the Republican party.


On September 10, 2007, Hagel announced that he would be retiring from the Senate at the conclusion of his present term, and would not seek the Republican Party nomination for the Presidency in 2008.

On its website The Times reported that the Senator is a possible candidate for the cabinet position of United States Secretary of Defense or a smaller post in an Barack Obama or John McCain administration:

Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war […] Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defense secretary.

Senator Obama was quoted in the same article, when asked about Hagel as a potential cabinet member: "Chuck Hagel is a great friend of mine and I respect him very much."

America: Our Next Chapter

In Senator Hagel's book, America: Our Next Chapter, he suggests that the United States should adopt independent leadership and possibly another political party. He also believes that the Iraq War is one of the five biggest blunders in history. Hagel is critical of George W. Bush's foreign policy, calling it "reckless." He has been a major critic of the war since it started, and has stated that the United States should learn from its mistakes in the Vietnam War. He considers Bush's foreign policy a "ping pong game with American lives".

Vice Presidential possibilities

Hagel was rumored to be a possible Obama pick for the Vice Presidential candidacy in his 2008 presidential election ticket. On June 20, 2008, Hagel said he would consider running with Obama if offered the VP spot. He has also been mentioned as a potential United States Secretary of Defense to succeed incumbent Robert Gates in the Obama administration. and said that he would consider serving if asked. In August, Hagel indicated that he wouldn't endorse either candidate or get involved in their campaigns. However, his wife endorsed Obama. Obama later picked Joe Biden as his running mate.

There would also be speculation over if John McCain would choose his good friend Senator Chuck Hagel as his Vice Presidential Candidate, McCain wouldn't say no to this question in an interview. Ultimately Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was chosen instead.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs


On December 7, 2008, President-elect John McCain announced at a Arizona press conference that he would nominate Hagel to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Hagel said that "he was honored" to be nominated to that post by his close friend and former colleague, and said he would work tirelessly towards reforming the broken Veterans Affairs Department.

On January 20th of 2009, Congress would easily confirm Chuck Hagel for the Veteran's Affairs position. On January 20, 2009 he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, and he took the oath of office of Secretary of Veterans Affairs the following day.


Secretary Hagel stated at his that he would work tirelessly to continue to work to reform the Veterans Affairs Department. He announced that he would work closely with with President McCain for veterans and military reforms and would hope to pass bills that outline these reforms down the line of the year 2009.

In an interview on CNN on February 17, Hagen once again criticized the Bush Administration, called their management of the Veteran Affairs "disastrous" and "outdated". Again he promised to work tirelessly on reforming the Veterans Affairs Department, and said he hoped to work closely with both President McCain and the Democrats in the Congress, saying that "we can not let partisan politics prevent us from providing the much needed care and support all our veterans deserve".

On March 19, 2009 the Veterans Affairs and Support Reform Act would pass after a quick vote in Congress, when it passed the Senate by a vote of 65–32. The vote would pick up broad bipartisan support, while some Republicans criticized the bill, calling it unnecessary spending. Hagel praised the passing of the bill and the bipartisan support, calling it "a step forward for a complete overhaul of veterans care and the Office of Veterans Affairs". A controversy emerged when he called those calling the bill unnecessary spending "greedy", after which several Republicans . However, the controversy settled after McCain went out in support of Hagel, saying that "the bill is an important step towards providing the care our veterans sorely deserve and need."

See also

Offices held

Political offices
Seal Of Department of Veterans Affairs Preceded by:
Kevin C. Kiley

7th Secretary of Veterans Affairs of the United States
Served under: John McCain
Since January 21, 2009

United States Senate
Seal Of the Unites States Senate Preceded by:
J. James Exon

United States Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
1997 – January 3, 2009
Served alongside: Bob Kerrey, Ben Nelson

Succeeded by:
Mike Johanns
Party political offices
60px Preceded by:
Hal Daub

Republican Party nominee for United States
Senator from Nebraska (Class 2)


Succeeded by:
Mike Johanns
Order of precedence in the United States of America
Great Seal of the United States (obverse) Preceded by:
Lisa Keegan
Secretary of Education
United States order of precedence
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by:
Tom Ridge
Secretary of Homeland Security
United States Presidential Line of Succession
Great Seal of the United States (obverse) Preceded by:
Lisa Keegan
Secretary of Education
17th in line
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by:
Tom Ridge
Secretary of Homeland Security

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