Earlier today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
Chuck Hagel is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Defense. He is a decorated war hero who earned two purple hearts for his heroism in Vietnam. He knows the sacrifices that we ask our brave service members to make because he has made them himself. If confirmed, he would be the first enlisted soldier, and first Vietnam veteran, to serve as our nation's Secretary of Defense.
Senator Hagel also has the judgment and experience to serve. He worked tirelessly for two terms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee. He helped lead the fight in the Senate to pass the post-9/11 GI Bill, and worked at the VA and as head of the USO, where he dedicated himself to supporting our armed forces. Throughout his career, he has been a champion for our troops, military families and veterans.
President Obama has come to know and trust Senator Hagel over nearly a decade, dating back to their time together in the Senate. Together, they travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq in the summer of 2008, and they share a commitment to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly. Senator Hagel has been a strong supporter of the President's approach to national security, and as Secretary of Defense, he will support and execute the President's vision for our military. That includes continuing the President's historic support for gay and lesbian service members, and overseeing the continued implementation of the full repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The President is fully committed to ensuring that all of our service members and military families are treated equally. He is confident that, as Secretary of Defense, Senator Hagel will ensure that all who serve the country we love are treated equally -- no matter who they love.
Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel's past comments. In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members.
One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve. The President believes Senator Hagel's statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally. The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.