Hagel receives low marks from defense community in poll

Greg Nash

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has an approval rating of only 36.2 percent, versus a 44.9-percent disapproval rating, according to a new Defense News poll.

Hagel received high marks from Democrats, at 82.6 percent, but that rate was dragged down by Republican disapproval of 62.4 percent and defense industry disapproval at 50.9 percent.

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The military gave Hagel a 44-percent approval rating, while 36 percent said they disapprove. Pentagon civilians were split at 38.2 percent.

The poll was taken earlier this month, by 245 members of government, industry and academia who work in defense. Most respondents were Republican, and most came from the defense industry.

Mackenzie Eaglen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the results were not necessarily personal.

“The first thing that anyone would have to question is whether industry would give low marks to anyone who had the job right now because they are the front man for implementing sequestration light,” she told Defense News.

Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center and professor at American University, said Hagel, a former senator, lacked experience in defense management.

“He didn’t sit on the [Senate] Armed Services Committee, he sat on the Foreign Relations Committee. So even though he was once a soldier in uniform, his actual defense management experience is extremely small. Getting up to speed and getting on top of the building is a challenge,” he said.

The poll also gave President Obama a low approval rating, at only 20.3 percent, and a 70.6-percent disapproval rating. House Democrats received an approval rating of 5.5 percent, compared to House Republicans at 32.7 percent.

However, one figure received positive ratings — Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who saw a 44.1-percent approval rate, versus 31 percent disapproval.

“I’m surprised that in general, he was the most popular,” Eaglen told Defense News. “A lot of people in defense policy circles are incredibly disappointed in Dempsey and all the chiefs for their shifting warnings on sequestration. Now a lot of that is not their fault; there was politics at the White House.”

Click here for the full poll results.