Johnson: Hagel Takes Over a Pentagon on the Edge

At 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, former Sen. Chuck Hagel will arrive at the River Entrance of the Pentagon for the first day of his new job.

He’ll take the oath of office behind closed doors at 8:15 a.m. Later in the morning, in the Pentagon auditorium, the Vietnam vet will address service members and civilian staff weathering a change in command while anxious about their own livelihoods.

It’s no secret that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was frustrated by the delay in Hagel’s confirmation and is eager to book it out of town and back to his Monterey Bay walnut farm. But Panetta was also viewed on both sides of the aisle as a stable leader for the department through the budgetary threats, warning of the effect that deep sequestration cuts will have on readiness and national security.

Panetta, who was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2011, was also not as politically divisive as his successor. Hagel’s 58-41 confirmation today was the narrowest margin since the position of Defense secretary was created in 1947.

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