WASHINGTON Chuck Hagel took charge Wednesday of the Defense Department with deep budget cuts looming and Republican opponents still doubtful that he’s up to the job.
He took the oath of office as Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon and was expected to address civilian and uniformed employees of the department later Wednesday morning.
The bitter, seven-week fight over his nomination ended Tuesday as a deeply divided Senate voted 58-41 to confirm him. Just four Republicans joined Democrats in backing the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran.
“I am honored that President Obama and the Senate have entrusted me to serve our nation once again,” Hagel said in a statement Tuesday. “I can think of no greater privilege than leading the brave, dedicated men and women of the Department of Defense as they perform vital missions around the globe.”