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Liberal retirees say the decorated Vietnam War veteran will be a strong leader who will support “war fighters.”

Fourteen retired flag officers wrote to the committee this week, urging the panel to reject Mr. Hagel.

The group — including retired Pacific Fleet commander Adm. James “Ace” Lyons and former Delta Force commando Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin — said they oppose confirming the liberal Nebraska Republican for the Pentagon post because he would further cut U.S. military forces and also because he favors the total elimination of nuclear forces.

“Our nation faces enormous national security challenges as we enter 2013,” said the group linked to the conservative Center for Security Policy.

“Addressing those challenges will require leadership at the Pentagon that recognizes the gravity of the threats we face and understands the requirement for a formidable military capable of deterring and, if necessary, overcoming them. Sen. Hagel’s record on key issues indicates he is not such a leader.”

On the other side, a group of retired generals and admirals issued a statement in December supporting Mr. Hagel. They include retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser in the George H.W. Bush administration; retired Adm. William Fallon, a former Pacific command leader; and retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command.

These 11 generals and admirals said in their statement that they support Mr. Hagel for Pentagon chief because “he has stood up for what he believes are the best interests of the United States.”

Sen. Hagel has been a voice of moderation and balance in an unbalanced time, and we can think of few people better qualified to lead the Department of Defense,” these retired officers stated.

Senate end-run suggested

Newly confirmed Secretary of State-designate John F. Kerry signaled last week that the Obama administration is planning to seek more executive agreements for future arms-control deals.

The use of such agreements would avoid contentious political battles in the Senate but is raising concerns that such accords would circumvent the Senate’s constitutional duty to provided advice and consent for international treaties.

Sen. James E. Risch, Idaho Republican, told Mr. Kerry during a Jan. 24 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination:

“There are a lot of us that are becoming increasingly concerned about all this talk regarding executive agreements, as opposed to treaties that are negotiated by the executive branch, as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and ratified, if appropriate, by this committee and eventually by the full Senate.”

Mr. Kerry was asked about “bypassing” the committee. He replied with a carefully worded answer that did not rule out the use of non-ratified agreements.

“Well, every administration in its history — Republican and Democrat alike — has entered into executive agreements,” Mr. Kerry said.

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