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Chuck Hagel takes the helm at Pentagon

Published on Feb 28, 2013 12:09 AM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel was sworn in Wednesday after a divisive Senate debate over his nomination that signals a rocky road ahead as he tackles deep budget cuts and frayed ties with Congress.

Mr Hagel, 66, took his oath of office at about 8:30 am (8.30pm Singapore time) at the Pentagon as his wife looked on, becoming the first combat veteran from the Vietnam conflict to take up the post.

Despite the bitter atmosphere that prevailed at his confirmation hearing, in which the ex-senator was pummelled by his former Republican colleagues over his statements on Israel and Iran, officials said Mr Hagel would focus on the work at hand and seek to cooperate with Congress.

"Senator Hagel has signalled his very strong commitment right away to get down to business, to get deeply invested in the work of the Pentagon and its military and civilian workers," Pentagon spokesman George Little said Tuesday.

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