WASHINGTON, D.C. — A ceremonial swearing-in for the new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took place at the Pentagon March 14, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little announced.
Hagel already has been baptized by fire during his first weeks on the job: facing sequestration immediately after his arrival, an eventful visit to Afghanistan and a litany of challenges.
Hagel began work Feb. 27, taking his oath of office from Director of Administration and Management, Michael L. Rhodes, in a small ceremony. Two days later, across-the-board sequestration spending cuts triggered and the Secretary suddenly led an organization that has to cut $46 billion by the end of the fiscal year and a civilian workforce facing furloughs.
The Secretary wasted no time going to see service members in the combat zone, leaving March 7, for Afghanistan. Meetings with troops, North Atlantic Treaty Organization commanders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, packed the three-day trip.
After returning to Washington D.C., Hagel was in the throes of another busy week, addressing veterans issues, the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region and ongoing budget and strategy issues, Little said. He added, Hagel joined President Barack Obama for a meeting with the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.
Little praised Brunei’s role, chairing the Association of South East Asian Nations Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, noting Hagel’s interest in strengthening the U.S.-Brunei relationship.
“The secretary looks forward to strengthening this important relationship as we continue to deepen our engagement in a strategically vital Asia Pacific region,” he said.
Later this week, Hagel will focus on budget and strategy issues when he hosts his first quarterly meeting of DOD’s civilian and military leadership, Little said.
In addition, Hagel met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. It was Hagel’s first meeting with the VA chief since he took office, but they are old friends, Little said. The two have known each other for more than a decade, he added and both served in the 9th Infantry Division during their respective combat tours in Vietnam.
Hagel is eager to continue the progress being made on the many issues that affect the lives of service members and veterans, Little said.