On Monday, Hagel reversed a decision by his predecessor, Leon Panetta, and canceled the creation of a new military medal for drone and cyber warriors. He ordered military leaders to develop a special pin or device that would be attached to already existing medals or ribbons.
That drew effusive praise from Republicans, Democrats and veterans who had argued that the medal should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
"This is why I voted to confirm Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense - simply put, he does the right thing," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
For his part, Hagel was smoother at his third appearance on Capitol Hill in a week, a sharp contrast to his halting testimony at his confirmation hearing in January that was widely criticized. His responses Wednesday were crisper than his sometimes rambling answers at his confirmation.
This time he shared the witness table with Dempsey and Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale.
Once again, Hagel tangled with his former colleague, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over the defense budget and congressional notification, but the exchange bore none of the hard edges of their angry dispute over the Iraq war earlier this year.
The hearing Wednesday even had some moments of levity. The well-attended session gave Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., the requisite number to approve military nominations and promotions at the start of the hearing. The panel acted by voice vote.
"Is the hearing over?" joked Hagel.
"It is - at least for the 549 nominees it's over," said Levin over the laughter.
"A damn efficient committee," Hagel quipped.