More than previous Pentagon chiefs, Hagel spoke out for deep cuts in US nuclear arsenal

Chuck Hagel, the likely next secretary of defense, would be the first to enter the Pentagon as a public advocate for sharply reducing the number of U.S. nuclear weapons, possibly without equivalent cuts by Russia.

He also supports an international movement called Global Zero that favors eliminating all nuclear weapons in a decades-long step-by-step process.

That puts him outside the orthodoxy embraced by many of his fellow Republicans but inside a widening circle of national security thinkers — including President Barack Obama — who believe nuclear weapons have become less relevant to 21st century security threats like terrorism.

Hagel's views on nuclear arms reductions are expected to be probed by fellow Republicans during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.