General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to give President Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee a vote of confidence today.

“I’m not going to speak about confidence,” Dempsey replied when asked if he was confident former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., could fulfill the duties of Defense Secretary. “He could be my boss. And then when is the last time you saw a subordinate discuss their confidence in their potential boss? But I think he’s got great credentials. My personal contacts with him have been very positive. And if he’s confirmed, I look forward to working with him.”

That’s a far cry from current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s response to the same question. “And you’re fully confident Chuck Hagel is prepared to take your place?” Chuck Todd asked on “Meet the Press.”

“Absolutely,” Panetta replied, without any of Dempsey’s circumlocution.