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COMMUNITY VOICE

Letter to Donnelly: Our security may depend on rejecting Hagel

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 8:35 am

Sen. Donnelly,

I am 72 years old and have followed politics my entire life. I also spent 42 years working in defense electronics at Magnavox and successor companies. In addition I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I take the defense of our great nation very seriously. I believe that this qualifies me to appraise a secretary of Defense nominee.

Being a Navy veteran, I would normally be predisposed to accept a Vietnam veteran and twice-wounded hero without question. However, his later life, his admitted lack of knowledge and the evasive hearing testimony weigh stronger on my evaluation.

I have never witnessed a candidate for Cabinet appointment who delivered such a hapless performance.

It was unnecessary for him to admit his lack of knowledge on weapons systems. It was apparent that while a senator he did not learn much about the systems he voted to fund. His entire career of lack of knowledge did not keep him from being a very vocal critic of the Department of Defense.

One could say that a secretary of Defense who had advocated downsizing would be a great leader at this time when we are facing the need for austerity. I argue that this makes it vital that the leader have intimate knowledge and love of the Defense Department to make the critical decisions.

We cannot afford an uninformed decision-maker determining the future of a downsized Defense infrastructure. I also believe that we cannot afford the time it would take for him to scale a steep learning curve.

We face a sequester that may be softened, but the consequences cannot be totally avoided. No matter what the outcome of the spending votes, the Department of Defense will bear the brunt since the Senate lacks the political courage to take on a bloated entitlement structure.

Fighting two wars has waged a war of attrition on military infrastructure, and the costs of increased manpower have already decimated the defense industry as programs were deferred or stretched out at lower run rates. A strong argument could be made for more investment in infrastructure if the national debt were not stratospheric.

In the hearing, former Sen. Hagel tried countless times to disavow his prior actions but was unconvincing since his convictions on his adversary beliefs on the department kept showing through. I was disappointed that the committee did not question him on his votes. His voting record was anti-defense and in retrospect wrong for history.

When speaking on a nuclear Iran, he actually was to the left of President Obama until one of his handlers corrected him and he had to backtrack. This is really alarming since he is on record as stating that we had little to worry about a nuclear Iran since when they had a bomb it would make them more responsible in their decision-making.

Hagel’s record on unilateral disarmament, the disengagement, U.S. retreat as a world military power, lack of support for vital allies and adversarial position on Israel, suspension of skepticism on Iran nuclear ambition cannot be allowed to protect the security of our people.

The U.S. faces the resurgence of al-Qaida and other jihadi terrorism, a near nuclear Iran, continued Syrian attacks on its citizens, ascendant Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, unstable leadership in North Korea, an increasingly militant China, and uncertainty over Russia’s ambitions with regard to their weaker neighbors.

Sen. Donnelly, the country cannot afford Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense. You may also note that my address is Fort Wayne, Ind. Your recent visit to that city should remind you how vital it is that we have a competent leader in the Pentagon. Northeast Indiana cannot have uninformed program cuts if this vital but weakened industry asset is going to survive.

You ran as a strong proponent of defense; you also campaigned on Hoosier jobs and said you would decide your vote based on what was good for your constituents and you would not allow President Obama and Harry Reid to decide your vote. This may be the most important vote of your career since the national security of your country and the economic security of one of your regions depend on the outcome.

I cannot imagine any of your constituents in northeast Indiana would abide your support for Hagel. His appointment will have consequences that will still reverberate in 2018.

Dave McKeeman is a resident of Fort Wayne.