Chuck Hagel

Secretary of Defense (since 2013), former Republican senator from Nebraska

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Why He Matters

The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense on Feb. 26, 2013.

Senate Republicans blocked Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense on Feb. 14, 2013, filibustering his confirmation amid demands for more time to study their former colleague’s speeches and finances after leaving the Senate in 2008. It is the first time a national security nominee has ever faced a filibuster.

Hagel is a rough-and-tumble Vietnam veteran who has clashed repeatedly with his party over the war in Iraq. His willingness to lash President Bush's team has earned him a spot as head of the Defense Policy Board in President Barack Obama's administration.

Hagel's opposition to President Bush's war policies has earned him a reputation as a rebel Republican, though his votes on domestic issues have been reliably conservative throughout his two terms in the Senate.

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U.S. sending nonlethal aid to Ukraine military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. will send medical supplies, helmets and other nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian military in response to Russia's “destabilizing activities.”


Obama presents Navy with football trophy, again

(Michael Reynolds / EPA)

President Barack Obama says the Navy football team not only had to overcome tough opponents to win the Commander-in-Chief trophy this year but a government shutdown as well.


Hagel seeks to increase ties with Mongolia

(Alex Wong, Pool / Associated Press)

After days of high-profile, pressure-filled meetings, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got to horse around a bit during a short stop in Mongolia on Thursday.


US sending nonlethal aid to Ukraine military

The U.S. will send medical supplies, helmets and other nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian military in response to Russia’s “dangerously irresponsible” efforts to destabilize the country, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

U.S. ground troops going to Poland, defense minister says

In a meeting with The Post, Poland’s defense minister calls for a ‘re-pivot’ toward Europe


At a Glance

  • Career History: Atlantic Council Chairman (since Feb. 2009); U.S. Senator (1997 to 2008); President of McCarthy and Co. (1992 to 1996); President and CEO of the Private Sector Council in Washington ( 1990 to 1992); President and CEO of United Services Organizations (1987 to 1990)
  • Birthday: Oct. 4, 1946
  • Hometown: North Platte, Neb.
  • Alma Mater: University of Nebraska, B.A. (History), 1971
  • Spouse: Lilibet
  • Religion: Episcopalian
  • DC Office: 248 Russell Senate Office Building, 202-224-4224
  • Web site

Path to Power

Hagel was born in North Platte, Neb., in 1946, to Charles and Betty Hagel and was the eldest of four sons. Hagel and his brothers - Tom, Mike and Jimmy - lived nomadic childhoods, as the family drifted from one Nebraska town to another while Charlie searched for work at lumberyards.

Charlie had served as a tail gunner on bombing raids in the South Pacific during World War II, and the experience affected him deeply. Alcohol became a constant battle in his life. As the eldest son, Chuck would often step in and protect his mother when Charlie was violently drunk.

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The Issues

During his 1996 Senate run, Hagel campaigned as a small-government, anti-abortion rights social conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan. "We are taxed too high and regulated too heavily," he said at the time.

Despite his general adherence to conservative principles, Hagel has often opposed his party's legislative agenda. He voted against the No Child Left Behind bill in 2001 and the Medicare overhaul and prescription drug benefit, which he called "a sham and a rip-off for nearly everybody." More recently, and in a marked contrast with the rest of his Senate career, Hagel voted with his party only 78.5 percent of the time in the 110th Congress.

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The Network

Hagel grew close to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.) during their work together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is also good friends with two other colleagues on the committee, fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and former chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

Hagel traveled with Barack Obama to Iraq and Afghanistan in July 2007, and the two seem to have developed a rapport.

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Additional Resources

  1. Robynn Tysver, "Nebraska Senate Race: Candidates Read From Similar Scripts," The Associated Press, November 1, 1996
  2. Almanac of American Politics, 2008 Edition
  3. "Gates Names Hagel to Defense Policy Board," Lincoln Jurnal Star, July 1, 2009
  4. Myra MacPherson, "Brothers in Arms; Together in War but Divided by Politics, the Hagels Are Side by Side After Senate Victory," The Washington Post, January 13, 1997
  5. Alvarez, Lizette, "Republicans in Senate leave their leadership positions intact," New York Times, Dec. 2, 1998
  6. Morton, Joseph, "Bush urges yes vote on financial rescue," Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 2, 2008
  7. Washington Post Votes Database
  8. Silva, Mark, "Panel rejects war 'surge,'" Chicago Tribune, Jan. 25, 2007
  9. Pierce, Charles P., "'Before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment,'" Esquire, June 26, 2007
  10. Bruni, Frank, "Public Lives; Horrors of Vietnam spur senator's foreign policy battle," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1999
  11. Biographical information from the Almanac of American Politics, 2008 Edition, and Sen. Hagel's Web site
  12. Bender, Bryan, "Two GOP leaders attack Iraq policy," Boston Globe, Sept. 16, 2004
  13. Lochhead, Carolyn, "Even GOP senators rip rice on Iraq," San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 12, 2007
  14. Cillizza, Chris, "Hagel announces he won't seek another Senate term," The Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2007
  15. Lelyveld, Joseph, "The Heartland Dissident," New York Times, Feb. 12, 2006
  16. Yost, Pete, "AP Impact: Mortgage firm arranged stealth campaign," The Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 20, 2008
  17. Darman, Jonathan, "A reluctant rebel's yell," Newsweek
  18. Kaiser, Robert G., "The Political Veteran," The Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2004
  19. Bruck, Connie, "Odd man out," New Yorker, Nov. 3, 2008