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    New US defense secretary sworn in

    WASHINGTON (PAN): Decorated Vietnam War veteran, Chuck Hagel, was sworn in as new US defense secretary on Wednesday morning, replacing Leon Panetta.

    Hagel, 66, was administered oath by Defense Department Director of Administration and Management Michael L Rhodes at a private ceremony attended by family members and immediate office staff.

    Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday by 58 to 41 votes. After his confirmation, Hagel received congratulatory phone calls from Panetta, congressional leaders and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. 

    In his conversation with Secretary Shinseki, the incoming secretary indicated his desire to meet as soon as possible to continue and deepen the strong partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs on common priorities.

    President Barack Obama nominated Hagel on Jan. 7. He testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 30, with the panel recommending him for confirmation to the full Senate on Feb. 12.

    Hagel earned two Purple Hearts during service as an army sergeant, and served as senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009.

    On Tuesday, Obama said Hagel is the kind of Defense secretary the country needed and the leader that the troops deserved. Hagel’s first public remarks are expected shortly in his address to Pentagon employees.