Defense Secretary Hagel visits Camp Lejeune, talks about budget cuts

POSTED: 9:33 AM Jul 15 2013   UPDATED: 10:08 PM Jul 17 2013
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Camp Lejeune Wednesday to talk about budget cuts and other issues affecting the military.

Secretary Hagel stopped by the Stone Bay branch of Camp Lejeune, where he thanked service members and talked about the sequestration, an $85 million reduction in federal spending that will last until October.

Hagel said times are tough, and despite the possibility of more budget cuts in the near future, military readiness is the biggest priority. Hagel added he is still working to decide which areas of the defense budget cuts makes the most sense.

After answering questions from Marines, Secretary Hagel went to the school of infantry at MCAS New River to watch training. Hagel also conducted a roundtable discussion with female Marines about women in combat.

According to a release from Hagel's office, "the intent of this trip is to thank service members for their contributions, reinforce his commitment to the defense of the nation during this period of fiscal austerity, be straight forward with service members and civilian employees about the impact of budget cuts, and gain exposure to key bases and installations."

Secretary Hagel began his three-day tour of U.S. military bases on Monday, when he visited Fort Bragg. About 8,400 civilian employees at Fort Bragg are being furloughed for up to 11 days now through Sept. 30. The unpaid days off equal a 20-percent pay cut over the next three months.

Secretary Hagel also stopped by Pope Army Airfield, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and Joint Base Charleston, before heading to Camp Lejeune.