Chuck Hagel sworn in as Secretary of Defense, takes helm at Pentagon after bitter fight

WASHINGTON - Chuck Hagel was sworn in Wednesday as Secretary of Defense following a bitter nomination fight on Capitol Hill.

He took the oath of office at the Defense Department, which is facing deep budget cuts.

Hagel was expected to address civilian and uniformed employees at the department later in the day Wednesday.

Tuesday, the Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Hagel. Four Republicans joined Democrats in backing President Barack Obama's nominee.

The vote ended a contentious fight over the president's choice for his second-term national security team.

Republicans opposed the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, casting him as out of the mainstream and overly critical of Israel. But Democrats stood together for Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam combat veteran.

Hagel will succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA director and Pentagon chief.

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