US Senate confirms Hagel as Secretary of Defense
Washington, Feb 27 : After a two month battle by a group of Republican senators opposing his nomination, the US Senate Tuesday confirmed former Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense by a vote of 58-41.
Hagel is set to be sworn into office later Wednesday, more than a month after he was first nominated by President Barack Obama.
Republicans opposed Hagel's nomination, citing concerns about his approach to Iran, his views on Israel and what many saw as a lackluster performance during his confirmation hearings.
A group of senators asked US President Barack Obama to withdraw Hagel from consideration, and then managed to delay the confirmation vote in an unprecedented filibuster against the nomination.
Hagel is a former Army infantryman who was awarded two Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War. He will be the first enlisted man to become Secretary of Defense.
Hagel takes the reins from outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta, who served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for four years, before taking over as Secretary of Defense in 2011.
Hagel assumes the post just three days before massive, mandatory across-the-board budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect, which could force hundreds of thousands of defense layoffs and dangerously erode the US military according to Pentagon officials.