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Challenges await, Hagel says

During his first meeting with Pentagon employees as defense secretary, Hagel promises to be direct

American Forces Press Service

Published: 01:53PM March 7th, 2013
130227-D-TT977-282

Office of the Secretary of Defen

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promises frankness to Pentagon employees and service members during his first day at the Pentagon, Feb. 27.

WASHINGTON — New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised Feb. 27 to always be frank with the men and women of the department and said he expects all to be direct in return.

Hagel spoke to the Pentagon workforce and a worldwide audience on the Pentagon Channel just after taking the oath as the nation’s 24th defense secretary.

“I’ll never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do,” the secretary said. “I’ll never ask anybody to do more than I would do. That’s the story of your lives. I wouldn’t be worthy if that was not the case.”

Sergeant First Class John Werth, a native Nebraskan and combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the new secretary. He said Hagel already had held the most important job in the department: that of a combat infantryman. Hagel served in Vietnam as a young enlisted Soldier and was wounded twice.

This is a defining time for the world, Hagel said.

“We’ve got ahead of us a lot of challenges,” he said. “They are going to define much of who we are — not this institution only, but our country, what kind of a world our children are going to inherit. That’s the bigger picture of the objective for all of us.”

Facing these challenges is difficult, the secretary said.

In his first Pentagon briefing two days later Hagel kept his promise of frankness, telling DOD civilians they will “particularly” feel the pain of the coming budget sequester.

Hagel outlined the steps the Pentagon and the services will take as the budget mechanism known as sequester, which took effect at midnight March 1, trims roughly half a trillion dollars from defense spending over the next 10 years.

Along with cost-cutting actions by the services to curtail training and maintenance, the department has already announced it will furlough civilian employees beginning in late April, cutting their work hours and pay by 20 percent for the rest of the fiscal year.

“Our No. 1 concern is our people, military and civilian, the millions of men and women of this department who work very hard every day to ensure America’s security,” the secretary said. “I know that these budget cuts will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families. I’m also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force.”

Karen Parrish contributed to this report.