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Heinrich Says He’ll Support Hagel for Defense Secretary

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., will support the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel for U.S. secretary of defense after Hagel personally assured him this week that he supports upgrades to the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

“Over the last several weeks, I’ve been particularly interested in Sen. Hagel’s position on modernizing our nuclear weapons,” Heinrich said in a statement provided to the Journal. “As long as our nation maintains a nuclear arsenal, I believe we need to do everything we can to make sure it is safe, secure, and reliable.

“During our meeting, Sen. Hagel shared a mutual support for investing in the infrastructure and life extension programs of our nuclear arsenal, while negotiating further reductions in the number of nuclear weapons. I am pleased that Sen. Hagel shares my commitment to investing in the infrastructure, workforce and programs that enable our laboratories and defense installations to carry out their vital national security missions.”

Hagel also assured Heinrich that he understood that sequestration budget cuts could have “a devastating effect on New Mexico.”

Heinrich said Hagel, a decorated combat veteran and two-term senator who served on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Intelligence Committee, “has an impressive record of service to our nation.”

“After our meeting and after thoroughly reviewing his qualifications and testimony, I intend to support Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination,” Heinrich said. “I am confident that he will be an effective leader as the next secretary of defense.”

Sen. Carl Levin announced Wednesday that the Senate Armed Services Committee would not vote on Hagel’s nomination this week after panel members said they needed more time to consider his financial reporting and other issues.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has remained uncommitted on Hagel’s nomination to date. Udall is expected to meet with Hagel on Monday.

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