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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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national lead

May 26th, 2014
12:57 PM ET

Hagel: Narrow Partisans Blocking Defense Modernization

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel blamed Congress’ “partisan political narrow interests” for blocking the modernization of the US Armed Forces.

"I can't make tough choices within the limits of the dollar figure I have and then have no cooperation with Congress saying no, no, no, no," Hagel said."

According to Hagel, the Defense Department should be ‘build[ing] for the future” but special interests in Congress require the agency to hold on to decades-old systems that are unnecessary and expensive.

Hagel continued, “Modernization, readiness, two big pieces that have no constituency.  Weapons systems have constituencies.  Numbers have constituencies because those translate into political dimensions for a congressman."

The Defense Secretary said that the sequester and Congress’ insistence on funding outdated weapons systems put the agency in a double bind – unable to afford to modernize while required to maintain politically favored programs without sufficient resources.

Hagel questioned Congress’ actions, saying, “Why have [members of Congress] continued to cut our budget by tens of billions of dollars and not allow us the flexibility of prioritizing, where we think we need to go within the limits of the resources?”

For Hagel, the situation means “tough choices” lie ahead for the Pentagon.

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national lead

May 26th, 2014
07:22 AM ET

Hagel on VA scandal: "It makes me sick to my stomach"

(CNN) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN's Jake Tapper that the scandal surrounding the VA involving delayed care for several veterans in need is upsetting.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," Hagel said. "Because it is a clear responsibility we have as a country, as a people, to take care of these men and women and their families who sacrificed so much."

Hagel, who served as deputy administrator of the VA in the Reagan administration, says he still backs Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, but cautioned the focus now should be getting the facts. "Let's see what happened, why it happened, how it happened. Then we've got to fix it."

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