Hagel to be 5th Pentagon chief with enlisted time

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama declared that his defense secretary nominee, Chuck Hagel, would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon, he seemed to overlook four previous defense chiefs who served part of their military years as enlisted men.

William J. Perry, who served as defense secretary from 1994-97, was in the Army’s enlisted ranks from 1946-47 and served in Japan as a member of the American occupation force, according to a biography on the website of Stanford University, where he is affiliated with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Perry was given an honorable discharge from the Army, then was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Stanford and served in the Army Reserve from 1950-55 as a second lieutenant.

According to a Pentagon historical office’s biographical sketches of all 23 men who have served as defense secretary since the position was created in 1947, three others served in the enlisted ranks and later became commissioned officers — Melvin Laird in the Navy and Elliot Richardson and Caspar Weinberger in the Army.

So Hagel would be the only defense secretary who ended his military career in the enlisted ranks — he served in Vietnam as a sergeant in 1967-68 and was wounded twice — but one of several who spent time at those ranks.

When Obama announced his selection of Hagel at the White House on Jan. 7, he said Hagel’s selection as defense secretary would be “historic.”

“He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary of defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.”

Asked about Obama’s statement, the White House spokeswoman for Hagel’s confirmation process, Marie Harf, said Obama was correct because Perry and the other three who initially served in the enlisted ranks later became officers.

Hagel ‘clueless’ on Iran

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Hagel “seems clueless” on U.S. policy toward Iran and he urged the Obama administration to reconsider its defense secretary nominee.

In a statement, the South Carolina lawmaker stopped short of saying he would filibuster the choice if the president pushes forward as expected. No Democrat has come out in opposition to Hagel, two Republican senators back him and several others, including Sen. John McCain, say they wouldn’t support a filibuster.

“Chuck Hagel is a good man, but these are dangerous times,” Graham said. “What kind of signal are we sending to the Iranians when our nominee for secretary of defense seems clueless about what our policy is? I hope the Obama administration will reconsider his nomination.”

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments