Myriad concerns have been raised about Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, including his voting record, impolitic statements, two unremarkable Senate terms, scant management experience, and embarrassing performance at his confirmation hearing last month. Yet Hagel’s defenders dismiss these concerns because, they argue, the important decisions are made at the White House, by the president and his team….
This view wildly understates the role of America’s most important cabinet officer. Much of a defense secretary’s work is at his own discretion. He is responsible for military budgets and procurement, personnel promotions, public diplomacy, the Pentagon’s relations with defense ministries and militaries around the world, tactical military movements, and most force deployments. When a commander asks for an additional unit or capability—as with Les Aspin in Somalia, with Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even with Leon Panetta in Benghazi—the request lands on the secretary’s desk. And more often than not, it is the secretary, not the president, who makes the call. (Weekly Standard, Posted 25 Feb 13)