Senate should not delay filling national security jobsAverage people, untutored in global security issues, might think it a bad idea to let two of the nation's top national security posts remain vacant.
By: Scripps Howard News Service, The Dickinson Press
Average people, untutored in global security issues, might think it a bad idea to let two of the nation's top national security posts remain vacant.
After all, there's a war still to be fought in Afghanistan, menacing nuclear talk out of North Korea and Iran, a new and murderous branch of al-Qaida operating in Africa and alarming turmoil in Syria that threatens to spread elsewhere in the Mideast. Back home, proposed severe budget cuts threaten unwanted changes in our military postures.
Those average people would be right, but in so thinking show that they are alarmingly untutored in the ways of Congress.
President Barack Obama nominated his national security adviser, John Brennan, to be head of the CIA, a post held by an acting director since Nov. 12.
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta finally made good on his long-promised intention of stepping down, Obama, with reasonable promptness, named former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to be defense secretary. He would be the first former enlisted man to hold that post.
Hagel had his confirmation hearing on Jan. 31, and this week the Senate Armed Services Committee got around to confirming his nomination by a contentious 14-11 vote, with all of the opposition coming from Hagel's former GOP colleagues.
The Republicans have worked to delay a final vote on Hagel. They have stopped just short of a filibuster, which, with the current balance in the Senate, would probably kill his nomination and the search for a new Pentagon chief would have to begin again from scratch.
Panetta has promised to stay on, but he understandably acts like a man who is more than halfway out the door on his way back home to California. Given the time the Senate has had to hash over Hagel's record, this is a needless delay.
Also this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing concerns over U.S. drone policy and last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador, postponed a vote on confirming Brennan until the end of this month.
These are unnecessary and even dangerous delays in filling out the Obama administration's national security roster. The idea that lawmakers be required to stay in Washington until they finish their most pressing tasks has more and more appeal.
A Scripps Howard News Service editorial.
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