Now there’s a Team ‘Atomic’ Hagel?

Team Hagel is going nuclear. No really, in response to a low but sustained murmur of conservative attacks on Chuck Hagel’s previous support for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, Team Hagel now has an “Atomic War Room.” “Team Hagel is planning a full scale defense of the senator’s record on nuclear issues,” said an ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Team Hagel is going nuclear.

No really, in response to a low but sustained murmur of conservative attacks on Chuck Hagel’s previous support for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, Team Hagel now has an “Atomic War Room.”

“Team Hagel is planning a full scale defense of the senator's record on nuclear issues,” said an official close to the confirmation team. “Some have wrongly suggested that he wants to unilaterally close America's nuclear arsenal. Nothing could be further from the truth. He firmly believes in a strong nuclear deterrent as long as we face nuclear threats.”

Team Hagel is going nuclear.

No really, in response to a low but sustained murmur of conservative attacks on Chuck Hagel’s previous support for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, Team Hagel now has an “Atomic War Room.”

“Team Hagel is planning a full scale defense of the senator’s record on nuclear issues,” said an official close to the confirmation team. “Some have wrongly suggested that he wants to unilaterally close America’s nuclear arsenal. Nothing could be further from the truth. He firmly believes in a strong nuclear deterrent as long as we face nuclear threats.”

Hagel’s team has already said they were going on the attack. They defended Hagel’s nuclear record as one point of a seven-point myths vs. realties fact sheet released two weeks ago.

So why now? Are nuclear issues that big of a worry for Team Hagel? Or are they just trying to get out ahead of conservative senators, who seem to be running out of anti-Hagel ammunition? Worries of Hagel’s support for Israel and gay rights have come and gone. But nuclear issues — fully funding nuclear labs and construction of new delivery vehicles like submarines and the next long-range bomber — may get more play in Hagel’s confirmation hearing next Thursday. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) faced several nuclear-related questions in his own confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Either way, President Obama has made nuclear issues and disarmament a foreign policy priority. But his verve for the issue has never been picked up and matched by his first two Pentagon chiefs, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

With Hagel, Obama has picked a SecDef who spent the last few years advocating for disarmament.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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