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Senators grill Hagel on Pentagon post

10:52 AM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
Chuck Hagel/AP
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The Senate Armed Services Committee is conducting a confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel.

Some highlights:

9:43 a.m. -- Now comes one of Hagel's opponents: Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okl., top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Inhofe complains that Hagel did not supply enough background information to the committee.

9:32 a.m. -- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, gavels the hearing open.

Levin lauds Hagel's qualifications during an opening statement, citing his years as Vietnam veteran and U.S. senator from Nebraska.

While he cites some of the protests against Hagel's nomination -- on the issues of Iran, Israel -- Levin is a sure vote for confirmation, and a key ally for Hagel.

The committee chairman also discusses one of the next defense secretary's major tasks: Completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Other issues, Levin says: Syria, North Korea, the Arab Spring, the growth of al Qaeda terrorists in African -- and the prospect of major Pentagon cuts in the months ahead.

9:30 a.m. -- Hagel appears in the hearing room; we're just about ready.

As he makes his way around the room, Hagel hugs former Senate colleague and fellow Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, a major supporter.

A former senator from Nebraska, Hagel is expected to take tough questions from Republicans about his attitude toward Israel and Iran's nuclear program.

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