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Panetta Praises Hagel as ‘Right Person’ to Lead Department

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta commended President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as his successor to lead the Defense Department.

Panetta spoke today during a press briefing with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The secretary expressed confidence in Hagel’s experience and his projected ability to lead the department through budget uncertainties and the 2014 Afghanistan transition.

“I’ve known Chuck a long time,” Panetta said. “He is the right person to lead the department, not only because he’s a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, but [because] he understands Washington; he understands the issues that confront our national defense.”

Panetta said topics during meetings with Hagel included a range of general issues facing the DOD. The two also had a meeting specifically to focus solely on budget challenges.

“I’m confident that he wants to do everything possible to try and deal with the challenges we face,” Panetta said.

The secretary also noted that he and his successor agree about the future of the department.

“Despite a lot of very severe budget pressures … we need to maintain -- and I believe he believes we need to maintain -- the world’s most powerful and ready force to deal with the challenges we’re going to confront in the 21st Century,” Panetta said.

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