The Realist Prism: Hagel Hearing Leaves Strategic, Budget Priorities Unclear

By Nikolas Gvosdev, on , Column

After a bruising confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Armed Service Committee, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominee for the position of secretary of defense in the second-term Obama administration, may be reconsidering whether he truly wants the position. But the stress he endured on the hot seat before his former colleagues may pale in comparison to the challenges that he -- or anyone else nominated for the position should he fail to be confirmed -- will have to cope with in the coming years.

America's ongoing fiscal crisis and the seeming inability of its executive and legislative branches to find a lasting solution to the continuing budget impasse mean that the days of throwing money at national security problems are over. Even if Congress accepts Obama's proposal for avoiding sequestration -- the automatic budget cuts that were delayed at the last minute from coming into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 -- national security expenditures are still going to shrink, albeit in a more measured and tempered fashion. Because Hagel's confirmation hearing tended to focus on his past controversial statements and misstatements, rather than probing deeply and extensively into his vision for U.S. national security in the coming lean years, specifics as to how a Secretary Hagel might structure future budgets and commitments remain elusive. ...

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