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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel November 14, 2014

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a troop event, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota



Thank you.

Thank you very much. Please sit down.

There was a day as a sergeant in the United States Army that I could have never envisioned being introduced by the secretary of the Air Force. So, I'm always humbled by any introduction of our nation's defense leaders. And I begin my thoughts this afternoon that I'd like to share with all of you with an acknowledgement of the work that Secretary of the Air Force Deb James is doing for this country, for all of you, for all of us.

I couldn't be prouder. I know the president of the United States could not be prouder of the work that she's doing. She came in to office at a time of great challenges. She never hesitated. I believe in the first week she was in office, she got on a plane and took off to figure out the problems and then how to fix them.

So, to you, Deb, thank you for everything you're doing very, very much. We are grateful to you.

I next want to acknowledge your two United States senators who are here today. Senator Hoeven, thank you. Senator Heitkamp, thank you. I have a little experience in their business and know that securing the quality of our men and women who defend this country, and assuring that they have the resources to do their job and supporting them in every way is as high a priority for any elected leader that we send to Washington.

And your two United States senators do that as well as any two senators we have. So we are grateful for your continued leadership, for your support, and for your service. Thank you both.

To my friend Jack Weinstein, wherever he is, General Weinstein, thank you. You, too, came in at a difficult time to take over a very important command. And what you've done to put things on higher ground with your leadership, with the team that you have around you, is to be recognized, and I thank you. We all thank you, General, and your team for what you continue to do.

To the men and women here, and in our nuclear enterprise, thank you. Thank you for what you do every day. We I know seem in many ways, the American people, to take you for granted, the service and sacrifice your families make. I know sometimes it seems that you, your families, are taken for granted. You're not.

I've often thought about your business -- the nuclear enterprise business -- has been so good, so effective that you have put yourselves in a situation where nobody worries about you too much because you're so good. And you're so reliable. And you're so effective.

No system is perfect. Enterprises must stay renewed and refreshed and recommitted. And that's as much a job for the secretary of defense and secretary of the Air Force, our leaders, as anyone else. But it's you, too. It's you, too, because your colleagues, those you command, those you work with every day, look to you far more than they look to me or the secretary of the Air Force, for leadership.

They expect that from us, yes, but you make it happen. You are the ones that do the job. An example of that is an individual I'm very proud of, happens to be a Nebraska boy, Colonel Armagost, who is someone you all know well. I didn't know him as a baby, but I knew him, as the old saying goes, long before there was a twinkle in the eye of his father or mother.

I went to college with his mother and father in Nebraska. And I can tell you he was raised the right way with tremendous parents. And I'm so proud of him that he was grounded and shaped in my home state.

So Colonel, thank you for what you and all your team do for our country, and to all the commanders here.

Let me share a couple of thoughts, some notes that I've prepared, and then we'll just open it up and talk about whatever you want to talk about -- any question you want to ask. First, congratulations to Minot for sweeping so many of the global strike challenge awards. I'm well aware of those first-place awards and other awards you got. Congratulations for that.

I'm here today not by accident, or it was a necessarily convenient place in my schedule. I'm here very specifically for a specific reason. And that is, as Secretary James noted, this morning we announced at the Pentagon the results of the review that I had ordered earlier this year that Secretary James mentioned.

Your leaders here are well aware of that. Many of you here in the audience may well have participated in that review, because both the internal and external review were very thorough. And those who conducted those reviews both internal and external came to every one of our nuclear locations, and interviewed many of you, and talked to you, and asked you what's right, what's wrong, what needs to be done, what do you think? And so, I wanted to come here to talk to you directly about this. And I know you represent the entire Nuclear Enterprise. So, it isn't just one base. I know that. And I've been to most of the bases. But I wanted to come to one base where I could talk about this. And the secretary of the Air Force accompanied me. And I appreciated her changing her schedule, as well. Because she, as much as anyone, has put this issue at the top of her list of important assignments that she has. And she has many.

I want to mention a couple of things about the results of that review. And we made public the unclassified portions of those reviews today. We briefed members of Congress staff yesterday on the classified portions of the review. We have talked to our allies around the world. So, we have done, I think, a very thorough job of explaining what we did, why did we do it, and what the results were. And what, most importantly, we're going to do about it -- what we're going to do about it. And I want to share a couple of those thoughts with you, as well. But let me begin by saying something that I said yesterday and I said this morning.

The Nuclear Enterprise -- the confidence of the American people -- it's safe, it's secure, it's effective. No enterprise -- no complicated enterprise like this enterprise just runs on its own. It requires constant focus, constant leadership, constant attention, constant management, and resources. And that means you listen to your people. You particularly listen to your young people. To your young enlisted and your young officers. Because they -- they are the ones that do -- that do the work. They are the ones that shape the enterprise for the future. You all are the ones who will ascend to these important leadership responsibilities.

We need to stay close to you. We need to understand what you think. In particular, you've got to give us the honest feedback and answers. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What can we do better? What must we do better?

We live in a complicated time. This is a world that is in constant change. And that velocity of change is unprecedented. There has never been a time in the history of man we have seen the kind of change the world is experiencing, and it will continue to change at that rate -- rapid rate.

We can't turn that back, but we can help shape it, as the United States has shaped the global environment with our allies since World War II. And with all the problems and all the challenges and all the threats, I think we've -- we've done a pretty good job. And let's review that. There's been no nuclear exchange. We now just today take that for granted. We must never take that for granted.

There's not been a World War III. There are more people free in the world today than ever before. More people with options and possibilities than ever before. More people. But I think more hope. More challenges, more threats, interconnected. Different forces. All of that's -- that's right. But we have some opportunities here to help shape that. And the military will not do that alone. This Nuclear Enterprise will not do that alone. But we are part of it. We are -- we are a part of that. And I say that because I think sometimes, we all feel that maybe that we're disconnected from an out-of-control world. That we don't shape and can't shape, and just have to respond to.

Well, we respond to the crises, we manage through crises, but we must always stay ahead and anticipate crises. And that's where your role is so vitally important. Investment in thinking and planning in the future. Not where we've been, but where we're going. Anticipating those next great sets of challenges that face the world.

We're all in this together, all 7 billion people. That's not going to change. That is not going to change. More people are coming on to the face of the earth. More demand for resources. More bumping around at elbows. More interests. More freedoms. When you think about what's going on in the Middle East, for example, it isn't about less expression or less freedom. Now, it's manifesting itself, unfortunately, in many ways the wrong way. But so much is going on in the world that if we can see through it and get through it, and plan for the future and invest in the future -- in our resources, in our thinking, our planning -- we'll come out better and stronger at the other end.

I want to mention specifically some of the things that we're doing now -- we have been doing, and we'll continue to do -- in addition to significant upgrades, first in our resources, which Secretary James has begun, along with Secretary Mabus of the Navy. Because, as we all know, the Air Force and the Navy share the Nuclear Enterprise responsibility. And we've already begun that and putting those millions of dollars in new resources into the system. And we'll be doing more.

I've talked to the president about this. The president has been thoroughly briefed. I've talked to him over the last two and three months about this. And he agrees completely with what we're doing in requirements that are needed. This will also be reflected in our budget request that we'll present to the Congress early next year.

But some of the specific things that have come out of conversations that our reviewer had, with all of you and your colleagues from other of our nuclear facility bases and our Nuclear Enterprise headquarters -- deep cleaning launch control centers, upgrading all our equipment, new equipment in every area -- new vehicles -- facility repairs. We're changing our testing. As you now know, tests are now pass/fail. These are -- are issues that are -- that are being dealt with now. We'll continue to deal with them. They're tangible. We can see some results. But they're only front end of many of the bigger issues, challenges we -- we still need to get to.

One is the cultural change. What I mean by that is -- I just finished an hour with about a dozen junior officers. Closed the door, no one else in the room, off the record. I do this every time I'm out at any base. I do it monthly in Washington with junior enlisted and junior officers. Lunch in my office, with me, alone.

And we go around the table and I ask questions. They ask me questions. But I'm interested in what -- what they think. And I always ask the question, 'What about your future? What are you thinking about? Are you going to stay in the Air Force, or the Navy, or the Marines, or the Army?'

Varying degrees of answers and family situations, children, personal lives. All those are important. But one thing is -- is certain. And we hear this more and more. And it's something that the secretary and I have both talked about over the last year. A culture of 'Where am I going in this enterprise? Is there a pathway for me to get to other opportunities in the Air Force or the Navy' -- whatever branch of service that you're in.

Some of you want to stay and will stay in this business that you're in 20 years, 25 years. Others will want varying experiences. Other experiences, whether it's space or somewhere else. You shouldn't be penalized for your service as a missilier. Or your service here. You should be valued and can be applied to other career paths if that's what you want.

We're going to change that. We're committed to change that. But I wanted to particularly hit that with everyone. And it's something I ask from all of the people that I talk to privately on what they -- they think about their futures. Because we can put resources in an institution, as you know. We can stay technologically ahead and advanced, as we have since World War II.

But the quality of our people is the most critical element of our defense enterprise, our entire defense enterprise, as it is for any enterprise, whether it's a business, nonprofit. Doesn't make any difference. Quality people, leadership, commitment always make the difference.

And I don't want to lose that. I don't want to preside over a time at the Pentagon, nor does Secretary James and all of our leaders, that we allowed that to go down. The responsibility of leadership is to prepare for the future, prepare an institution for the future. Yes, we have the day-to-day responsibility, whether it's dealing with ISIL in the Middle East, with the Russians, Ebola, endemic health issues. Yes, those are responsibilities. We got it. But we cannot neglect the future and investment in our people, not just our enterprise, but our people for the future.

Both Secretary James and I, Chief Welsh, all the leaders of the Pentagon, of the entire defense enterprise, are absolutely committed to turn some of this around and provide to you the resources that you need, you will get. But I also want you to feel, as you should, as you must, as you've earned, the pride in what you're doing, and the appreciation from all of us and the American public for what you are doing.

You are an indispensable element of our national security. You are the main deterrent for the security of this country. That's not to diminish conventional forces. That's not to diminish any other aspect of our -- our national security enterprise. All are critically important. But you have the one indispensable deterrent. And we can't overlook that or take that for granted, ever.

Well, I am, as your secretary of defense, grateful to you, to your families, to all your associates, your colleagues, for what you do every day. You do it very, very well. We all want you to continue to do it very well. We don't want you to worry about your future. You have a future. We'll take care of that. You do the best job you can do.

There's little margin of error in this business. There's little margin of error in the world today. This isn't 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. The calibration of decision-making is now hair-triggered in every way.

Certainly your business is. Your business is. But so is everything. The immediacy of what technology has brought, a lot of good in this, but there's always a challenge to it -- has forced us into a world where we have got to be smart and wise in how we use our power, the purpose of that. And always, always be ready and think ahead of what may be coming, adaptability, agility, and be smart in what we're doing.

So, you know these things, but I think for all of us, and I include myself in this, it's important to be reminded of the heavy responsibilities that we all have, that we all take on willingly. And also for you to be acknowledged and thanked.

So I do that on behalf of the American people. The president of the United States asked me to send his regards and to send his personal thanks as I bring you thanks from all the leadership of the Department of Defense.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to be your secretary of defense.

Thank you.

I'll take some questions. (Applause.)

Or comments or advice. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, -- (inaudible), 791st -- (inaudible) -- Response Force.

I understand that on November 19th, you're putting a working group together to re-look at PRP and security. What -- what are you expecting to see here at Minot Air Force Base? And what is the timeframe?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I may ask the secretary of the Air Force to answer that because, first, your question fits into the larger framework of the things that we are doing and the ongoing things that we will be doing. And I would answer your question generally this way, and then the secretary may want to get more specific.

One of the things, among many that I've directed as a follow-up to this review. Reviews are fine, but reviews are only one step. They must be connected to follow-through. We had more than 100 recommendations from both of those reviews. We've implemented some of them. We're in the process of implementing many. And we're going to recommend all of them.

And we have to build a structure as to how we do that. A lot of reviews are out there, have been held, but again, that's only the beginning. The follow-through and the implementation of the recommendations are now the key.

And what you're just talking about, what's going to happen on November 19th, is part of that. I've put together -- directed a nuclear review team internally that I've asked the deputy secretary of defense, Bob Work, to lead. He will meet monthly with the leaders of the nuclear enterprise to get progress reports on every one of those recommendations.

They will meet with me every 90 days to give me a personal review of those recommendations -- where are we; are we on track; are we getting them done. That's key to all of this. Your questions really fall within that framework of next steps, and the next steps have begun.

I don't know if you want to mention anything specifically, Deb, on the specific question.

SEC. JAMES: No, I would just perhaps add to what the secretary said, that what we're trying to do overall and what he has asked us to do overall in the PRP arena is to return it to a common sense approach, a tool for the commander to ensure reliability, rather than have it be an administrative tool that has grown way, way out of proportion and begun to lack some elements of common sense.

And so we've already begun to attack it. So for example, anybody ever hear of the 'orange sheet' procedure? I see some head nods. OK. So is the orange sheet procedure gone, I hope? Because that's the way I have been informed. So that's an example of we have already begun to attack some of what had been perhaps lacking common sense. There's more to follow. And as the secretary said, that follow-up will occur.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

Yes? Do you have -- is the microphone somewhere, so we can all hear your question? OK. You be loud. All right. Or I can give you my microphone.

Q: (inaudible) -- just wondering about the -- (inaudible).

SEC. HAGEL: Did everybody hear enough of that -- health care issue -- are we cutting budgets; is the health care facility that each service has, as I think you all know, each service has hospitals, outpatient clinics, facilities, are they going to be combined into one.

I think most of you know that I have ordered a review on all of this months ago. On -- first, those review results have come back to me. First, I wanted to know the quality of I think the roughly 56 service hospitals we have, and almost 1,000 health care facilities around the world.

Is the quality what it needs to be? Second, is the access to those facilities and the quality, is the access what it should be?

Then we got down to the rest of the sets of questions, like safety. There were stories that came out in various publications a few months ago about a couple of hospitals within our system where there was a real issue about safety.

So, that was the third priority in those reviews. Those have come back. They're being examined by each of the services. We are taking a very intense look at how do we do it better, how can we do it better, how must we do it better? Obviously, resources are critically important.

As I said here earlier in my remarks, this is all part of thinking out ahead. What are we going to be requiring for health care?

Health care is as essential to this enterprise as anything, because it cuts right to the core of health of the force. And men and women are not going to stay in the military if there's a question about health care for their families. For them, yes, but for their families, they won't do it.

And we've committed to all of you that we're going to take care of that. So, we're going to have to do some things differently. We will do some things differently, but whatever it is, it'll be within the inter-service agreements of how we can do it better, how we in fact can provide better quality, assure absolute access, assure safety, and do everything that you expect from the Department of Defense and every one of the services.

We're looking at everything. And this didn't begin by the way, with my initiation of the overall military health care facilities. We've been looking at a lot of things. One of the reasons we're doing it, as our two Senators know, because of the uncertainty and unpredictability of our budget.

If sequestration, which you all know enough about, which in all due respect to our Senators, I have thought that that is the most irresponsible deferral of responsibility that a Congress can make: not dealing with something. And that's essentially what sequestration is. If that would hold, which it is the law of the land, and it holds, again, into '16, that means over a 10 year period, the Defense Department will take almost $1 trillion worth of cuts.

Almost a half a trillion, $490 billion over a 10 year period, which was a budget agreement reached about three years ago, which we're doing now. In addition to that, another almost half trillion that's been piled on as a result of sequestration, which we've already had big hits. I don't have to tell you.

Last year, the government shut down for 16 days. We had to furlough for five days. When I got into the office in February of 2013, the first thing I was confronted with was my comptroller walking in and saying, 'we're probably going to have to furlough people for 21 days.' I said, 'we can't do that.' We eventually got to five. It wasn't because of me, but because of the incredible work of our people.

The uncertainty of the continuing resolutions and budgets -- you can't run an enterprise, especially a national security enterprise, when you don't know what kind of resources you're going to have, essentially from month to month.

So, we are forced, if nothing else, through self-survival to have to come into these major reviews. But we should be doing it anyway, regardless of the budget situation. We know we're going to be doing with less. We're already doing with less. We know that. How can we do it smarter and still do the things that we need to do to keep this country safe.

We only have one mission, you know that. That's the security of this country. I have no other mission. You have no other mission.

But it just doesn't happen. It doesn't happen just with planes and drones and ships and nuclear weapons. It takes people. And so we're going to look at all of this. And I know I've gotten a bit of a far afield from health care, but it -- but it --- not really. It affects what your question is about is what we're doing with everything we're having to do with.

Q: Good afternoon, Secretary Hagel.

SEC. HAGEL: Where are you? No, OK, good. Thank you.

Q: Captain Byles, 69th Bomb Squadron.

Sir, since coming to the B-52 from another airframe in 2011, I've noticed that we have significantly built our proficiency at the nuclear mission, while not being quite as able to build, but more importantly retain proficiency in the conventional mission.

And specifically, across three major inspections from DTRA and from Global Strike over the last couple of years, our B-52 crew force at Minot has posted across-the-board 100 percent scores on our nuclear controllers' procedure testing.

So, we have significantly upped our game at (inaudible). However, during the same period, the last time our squadron has been to a red flag exercise was 2011. We're not going again until 2015. We feel like relative to our peers in the rest of the combat air forces, we are only beginning to attack the problems of anti-access, area denial, all the variety and change that's coming in the conventional mission.

So with that, and with about a third of the B-52 fleet about to become conventional only under New START, I was wondering if any consideration had been given to allowing perhaps one B-52 squadron out of four to focus on the conventional mission as happened in the '80s when several of the G models were taken away from the nuclear force.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, thank you for your question because it's very relevant. Back to one point I made -- I'm going to use this to get into an answer to your question -- about what happened last year. Readiness -- every facility, every base, every operation we had last year was affected by that budget. We stood down operations. Air Force -- everybody took it.

The Army couldn't train for months. Our squadrons were shut down. You couldn't fly. Readiness is one of those things that you can't see and you can't quantify in a building, but you just don't snap it back, as you know. Readiness is readiness. Readiness is preparation. It's training and it's all the things day-in and day-out that keep going.

And when you interrupt that, and when you stop that, it takes a long time to get it back. We are just starting to build it back. Now, your particular questions relate to that. And they also relate to our platforms, how many we have, how ready they are, how many people we have to fly them, our missions. And we've had to prioritize those missions.

And there's nothing wrong with prioritization. That's OK. But we're having to reassess everything. And what you're talking about specifically is all a part of that. Let me just give you an example of what I talked about earlier, but it cuts to your question: the realities of what's going on in the world today.

The announcement that came out this week by the Russians, which I understand they have walked back to a certain extent, about sending bombers into the Caribbean -- international waters. But the earliest reports that came out were reports of an aggressive action by the Russians that we haven't seen in a while.

Now, all of these factors are realities in the world that we live in, that we all have to deal with. And this is partly what I was talking about earlier, and you -- you've presented a real-life example -- of staying ahead of this, of anticipating, of preparing. Readiness is part of that.

That requires resources. That requires quality of people. That requires the health of the force. So, all you don't worry as you do your jobs and you stay focused about what's going to happen to your family. Will they be taken care of? Will there be what they need? We can't afford that. We can't afford you to take your mind off of the things, the important things you're doing, nor any of our services.

Everybody's got an important job. Everybody is important. So, your questions are very relevant to this. They are factored in. We are factoring into the larger dimension of our exercises where they will be, where the priorities are, where the threats are.

John, are you saying don't -- this is Admiral Kirby. Very famous. You see him on TV all the time. Admiral Kirby does a great job. And Admiral Kirby, when he says I can't take anymore, then that's it.

We're going to take some photos, I think. And -- is that right? Have a chance to shake everybody's hand and thank you personally.

Thank you all very much.


Thank you.

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