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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel January 13, 2015

Media Availability with Secretary Hagel at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri


Good morning, good afternoon, whatever it is.

STAFF: Sir, we'll take our first question from Kansas City (off mic).

SEC. HAGEL: All right John, I'm going to give you some hardware here, I've got -- you know, when you give out coins, you get coins in return.

But I find that I get bigger coins than I give out, and more functional, like a beer opener.

So, okay.

Q: Secretary, can you talk about the A-2, the degree at which it's becoming obsolete, and how soon we'll see them leave Whiteman?

SEC. HAGEL: The B-2?

Q: No, the A-10. I'm sorry.

SEC. HAGEL: The A-10, as I said in my remarks here with the troops, has been a tremendous and effective platform for our country and for our needs. But like all effective platforms, we need to upgrade and modernize. We went from the B-52, for example, to the B-1, to the B-2. It's the history of our -- of all of our platforms, whether it's aircraft or Navy vessels.

So, what we'll need to do is we'll need to phase out the A-10 as we make room for the F-35, which has more precision and more versatility. The B-2 can do a lot of the same things that the A-10 can do, especially precision-wise. It's not built for the same purpose.

But the point being, we need to modernize. We need to keep upgrading capacity, capabilities, and assure that our platforms stay ahead of our adversaries. And we'll eventually phase the A-10s out.

Q: Yeah, but I'm wondering how quickly. You're talking about when we --

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we're -- we're -- we've got that on the drawing board now. We presented that to the Congress last year. Congress had a lot of questions about it. It'll be brought back up, I'm sure, in later hearings this year. But it's in the process. It's in the plans to phase our A-10s out.

STAFF: Next question, Marcus.

Q: As you contemplate modernization across the entire Pentagon, how big of a priority is the new bomber? And how critical is it to the Pacific rebalance?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think the long-range strike bomber is absolutely essential to keep our deterrent edge as we go in to the next 25 years. It is a critical yes for the Asia-Pacific rebalance. It reassures our allies, our partners. It gives us a continued reach and strategic capabilities, which is essential. We need to do it. We need to make the investments. We will have it in the budget. It's something that I have particularly put a priority on in the budgets and things that I've talked about with the Congress.

I have confidence that the Congress will support us on this. But it's a critical element of our future long-range strategic deterrence capabilities.

STAFF: Next question would be (off mic)

Q: With all the things that are going on in Syria and Iran and North Korea, how great a threat to the national defense is sequestration, and how does that relate to the on-going efforts of keeping a solid National Guard doing a meaningful job, including with Apaches, helicopters, that type of thing?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, let me take the National Guard piece first, and then I'll wrap that into your question about sequestration. The National Guard reserve component of our defense enterprise is an essential component for our future. And I think the sophistication, the professionalization, the integration that we've seen, especially over the last 13 years during these two wars that we've been fighting, has shown that very clearly.

The partnerships, for example, that the National Guard have with almost 25 countries, partner countries, just to -- was with the defense minister in Slovakia last week, and he was reminding me of the relationship that they have with the Indiana National Guard, is really key also to capacity capability building for partners. National Guard can do that. National Guard to National Guard. They are unique services, but yet they are integrated into our larger fabric of national security.

So, they must be part of, and I think evidence of that, further evidence, is that you have the chief of the National Guard, who is now part of our chiefs of staff of our military leadership of every component. So, they have a voice at the table just like the chief of staff of the Army, the Air Force, every service. So, that's first.

Second, sequestration. Sequestration affects everything. It affects our budgets in every way: our budgets that we have, each service has, Air Force, Army, for example, working with the reserves, National Guard, sure it affects them. Because that's platforms, that's forward investment in technologies, and whether it's Apaches or whatever the aviation component is.

But overall, I've said very clearly and been making the point, I'm sure it'll continue to be made, that sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible way to govern. Just to arbitrarily make a decision, regardless of the realities and the conditions and the needs of a country, and institutions and departments without factoring all those needs in, it doesn't make sense.

I am hopeful that the Congress will come to its senses and stop it. There are very few members of the House and Senate, regardless of the party that I've talked to over the last two years, who don't say that we need to stop it. Now, how do you stop it and how do you change it? Because it's law. That's a different matter.

But it does affect what we're doing and how we're going to continue to manage our Defense Department and our responsibilities if for no other reason, and this gets often overlooked, it isn't just the dollars. It's the certainty of the commitments through the budgeting process that our people, our uniformed military leaders and our civilian leaders, from the secretary on down, have to commit to long-range programs.

The strike bomber, the long-range strike bomber is a very good example. If you were limited in your capacity and uncertain as well, you add to that limitation as to how much you can commit in out-years through research, through science, production, development, and so on, that's going to have an effect on your defense capabilities. It's going to have an effect on the decisions that you make, you're forced to make.

Uncertainty is the worst spot to be in. And then if you continue to be called upon, as we have been, I mentioned three examples this last twelve months, that we didn't start the year with Ebola and the Russians invading Crimea, and their irresponsible, dangerous behavior in Ukraine, or what's happened in the Middle East, we didn't start the year that way. But we've had to put our men and women, our resources, our budgets on the line to deal with this.

So, sequestration needs to be changed. I believe that we're making every effort. We'll continue to make that effort to change it. It is hurting our capabilities both short-term, but most importantly long-term.

STAFF: Our last question will be Phil (off mic).

Q: Mr. Secretary, in your remarks a little earlier today, you said the CENTCOM hack of its Twitter user account was not that a big a deal. These are systems outside the Defense Department. But are you concerned these kinds of attacks are going to become more common because they are easier for hackers to attempt to embarrass these commands?


Q: And do these military commands need to do more to protect against those kinds of cyber vandalisms?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, and I mean, I think there are a lot of different components, Phil, to the question.

First of all, it is what it is. And we shouldn't make more of it than what it is. It was a violation, it was an invasion of a system. It's a problem. It's going to continue to be a problem for everybody. I mean, it's pretty clear.

Technology has given, as I said in my remarks here, has given groups, individuals, powers in many ways empowerment to do things they would never be able to do. What we have to do is be smarter and better and deal with it. We will.

And what's most important is that we protect what's most important to us. Certainly, classified networks. Certainly, the networks -- (inaudible). A Twitter network, in all due respect to the Twitterites out there, is not a particularly important area.

But it is for our national security. But it is an indication of the capabilities that these groups and these individuals have, will continue to have, will become better at, and we're going to have to deal with it. We'll have to get better.

STAFF: Okay. Thanks everybody. Thank you sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Okay, thank you.

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