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Chairman LEVIN. Senator Hirono.
Senator HIRONO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member
I join my colleagues in welcoming you, Senator Hagel.
We live in a complex world, and any Secretary of Defense should
ask tough questions, maybe not particularly politically popular
questions. And I see you, Senator Hagel, as that kind of person,
based on your service to our country, your conduct and responses
to the questions asked of you today, and the conversation that you
and I had.
Turning to your statement this morning, you talked about looking
at our future threats and challenges and why the Department
of Defense is rebalancing its resources toward the Asia-Pacific region.
And of course, this kind of rebalance is critically important
to Hawaii in our forward position in the Pacific.
Would you expand as to why and what particular economic or
national security factors come into play as we rebalance to the
Senator HAGEL. Senator, you know better than most your region
and its importance and why it will continue to be important to the
world, but certainly to the United States. As I noted in my opening
statement and you know, we have always been a Pacific power. We
have been a Pacific power because we have clear economic interests
there. We have diplomatic security interests there. We have strong
allies there. I mentioned some of them in my opening statement.
When we look at the growth of economies, we look at trade
growth, we look at population growth, the rise of China. But not
just China, but that entire Asia-Pacific region, we need to stay relevant
to opportunities as well as challenges in all areas, but in particular
the areas that we see as emerging as to the largest, most
significant economic security issues and challenges and opportunities.
It is appropriate that any nation rebalance assets. You have to
be relevant to the times, to the shifts, the changes. Our world
today is totally different than it was 12 years ago. Our force structure
is being refit, and we are looking at a far more agile, flexible
force structure as our economies are becoming more agile and flexible.
So, for all those reasons and more, that is why we are doing
what I think is exactly the right thing to do. Doesn't mean, as I
said in my opening statement, that we are abandoning anybody or
any part of the world. We can't.
Senator HIRONO. Senator, as we live in times of budget constraints,
will you commit to keeping me and this committee informed
as you develop the strategies and contemplate force posture
adjustments that go along with this kind of rebalancing?
Senator HAGEL. Yes. I look forward to it.
Senator HIRONO. I am very heartened by your perspective, turning
to another question, that you always ask the question, is the
policy working--worthy of the men and women that we send into
battle and possibly to their deaths? So I am very heartened by that
kind of a perspective from someone who served our country.
What will be your top priorities as you look to care for the men
and women in uniform and their families?
Senator HAGEL. Well, as I said in my opening statement, the welfare,
the safety, the success of our men and women in uniform is
my top priority, has been and will continue to be, and their families.
Senator HIRONO. Do you have any specific programmatic ways
that you will reflect that?
Senator HAGEL. Well, first, to implement the law. We have a
number of new laws, policies that are in the process of being implemented.
We have spoken about some here today. And I will assure,
if confirmed, that we do that.
And as I said in my opening statement, we will assure that every
military man and woman and their families are given exactly the
same opportunities and rights as each other and all members of the
Senator HIRONO. I also take to heart your belief in the importance
of the core nation and the work between the Department of
Defense and the VA, and I understand that you have a strong relationship
with Secretary Shinseki. So, with your experience as a veteran
and having been a senior leader in the Veterans Administration,
what will be your primary challenges and goals as you look
to collaborate with Secretary Shinseki and the VA?
Senator HAGEL. It will be the same that Secretary Panetta and,
before him, Secretary Gates initiated in closer collaboration between
the two agencies, and that means the integration of our systems.
As our men and women transition out from active duty into
civilian life or retired life and are going to require the assistance
of some veterans assistance programs, a closer integration.
We know that the backlogs now are still far, far too long to get
evaluations of whether it is PTSD or whatever the health issue is.
So I think continuing to work with Secretary Shinseki, as Secretary
Panetta and Gates did, but strengthening that integration
of those systems, of leadership, of our people understanding each
other better, and maximizing the resources that each agency has
and making those resources more value-added and count more.
Senator HIRONO. Well, I had an opportunity to meet with Secretary
Shinseki recently, and those kinds of collaborative efforts
are not happening as expeditiously as we would like. So I certainly
hope that you will have a renewed sense of urgency about the outcomes
of these collaborative efforts because, of course, the bottom
line is it is to help our men and women who are transitioning out
of uniform into civilian life.
So I hope that we have that kind of commitment, strong commitment
Senator HAGEL. You have my strong commitment.
Senator HIRONO.--for outcomes. The Department of Defense is
the U.S.'s largest consumer of energy, and we talked about that
briefly when you came to see me. And it is clear that the military
will benefit greatly from cheaper, more stable fuel costs over the
long term. And promising work is being done in this area to commercialize
alternative fuels that can be produce abundantly in the
And of course, this kind of collaboration is very important for Hawaii
as being the most oil-dependent State in the entire country.
So, if confirmed, will you continue to emphasize and prioritize re-
search, development, and, where possible, deployment of renewable
fuels as well as enhanced energy efficiency efforts to reduce the Department
of Defense's energy costs over the long term?
Senator HAGEL. Senator, as you have noted, Department of Defense
is the largest user of certainly liquid fuels. But I think our
energy budget, I don't know the exact number, but it's probably
around $18 billion a year.
Anything we can do to make any aspect of securing our country
more cost effective, we need to look at, and I would make that a
high priority, if I am confirmed and go over to the Defense Department,
to see if we could--how we do that, how we can continue to
do that, because in the end, for all the reasons you know, it is just
clearly in the interest of our country, our resources, and our people.
Senator HIRONO. And certainly, continuing to fund R&D efforts
in these areas will accrue to us in the long term in terms of huge,
huge cost savings for DOD.
Senator HAGEL. Thank you.
Senator HIRONO. Thank you. My time is up.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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