SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon. I'm privileged to be here with all of you. I wanted to, first, congratulate Fred and his team here. Phoebe is here, and I know many of the senior leaders from General Dynamics are here. So, thank you for what you and your organization continue to do for our security, our country.
And to all the workers here who make it happen, it is about people. Technology is important. But without the right people, the people who have a purpose in their lives and who care about big things for big reasons, you make it work. And I want you to know, we appreciate what you do. We appreciate what you do at this magnificent institution that's been part of the security of this country for almost 130 years. And we look forward to continuing a long relationship with this community and this state and what you do and all of you.
To our men and women who serve in the armed forces, the civilian employees and to all of your families, again, I thank you. We all thank you. On behalf of President Obama and all our -- our country. (Applause.)
I also want to note that we appreciate the leadership and the strong support of your congressional delegation. I don't say that just because I'm a former United States senator, and that's an obligatory response. But I really mean it. I tell you that your delegation has been, continues to be very helpful, very supportive, and we appreciate everything that the Maine congressional delegation does for all of you and our country.
I want to make just a couple of brief comments. First, I, as you know, just had an opportunity to tour this magnificent ship. And it does represent the cutting edge of our naval capabilities for many reasons. And you all produced this ship, and you know an awful lot about it, and you know the reasons why it is so important to our future security.
It also represents another very important part of our future, our nation's security, and that is, as you know, its first assignment will be out of San Diego. And that means it will -- I know the weather's not as nice there, but you just have to do the best you can.
It represents an important shift of our balance in assets, in our focus, America's interest to the Asia Pacific. We are not retreating from any part of the world. We still have interests in every part of the world. We have allies. We have friends. We have partnerships. And we have interests that continue to grow.
But assigning this new ship to that rebalance is an important signal to the commitment that we are making to a part of the world that continues to become more and more important in world affairs, geopolitical security issues into our future.
So I wanted to note that and also share with you a thought that I had an opportunity to share with our men and women here in uniform before I took the tour. You know, we are living at one of those astounding, incredible, transformational, defining times in the world. And for all of us to be part of contributing to all of that, as we help shape a new world, a world that we have to believe -- and I believe -- is full of tremendous hope, new complications, new threats, new challenges, yes, but that's not new. We've always had threats and challenges.
But this is a new time. And it also represents for us, the United States, all that we have accumulated for over 250 years as people, our system, in capacity, the capacity to do -- continue to do great things, great things for our country, for our children, for the future, peace, stability, prosperity, and that's why you all do what you do.
And I think every now and then it's important to step back and recognize that and know why we're doing this, and put a particular focus on a better understanding of that. So, again, thank you for what you continue to do for our country, all of you who are here and those who are not here this afternoon who have done so much for this country over 100 years and what you will continue to do. We are grateful for that.
I want to particularly thank Captain Kirk, Captain Downey for their leadership. (Applause.)
And I know how proud you are of these men and women that you command, as you are helping shape the destiny of this great country.
Captain, I'd be happy to -- or, Fred, take a question, advice, anything you want to say. I'll be glad to try to respond. Yes, sir?
SEC. HAGEL: The question, if you didn't hear it, do I see any point when we would reduce the production of the Arleigh Burke-class ships and build more of these?
As you all know, our Navy is projecting out -- our Navy is in the process -- as a matter of fact, right now of -- as the entire Department of Defense is -- going through the quadrennial review. And that corresponds with our budget that we will present to Congress in the next couple of months. And we project out, as you know, not just annual budgets, but just with five-year budgets.
So your question fits right into the future capability, capacity that's going to be required, the planning, what ships are we going to continue to build, which ships are we going to replace? And this ship -- this class of ship, I would say, has a rather significant future. So recognizing also that we are dealing in a world of great uncertainty, we currently have no budget. We have a continuing resolution, which makes it very difficult to plan, prepare, in a good world, in a peaceful world, but in a world where certain parts of this world are not peaceful and are very dangerous and global in its threats. We are trying to work our way through this as we plan and prepare for the kind of platforms and assets that will keep this country strong and secure and our military second-to-none for many years and years to come.
We will get through that. We have tremendous people, just like all of you here, our people across the world, the three million people who are associated with the Defense Department, whether it's uniformed military or civilians, or National Guard or reserves, and then you add on to the contractors, and many here who work on behalf of the Department of Defense. I know you're all hanging there with the same kind of question that you asked me and more. And I understand that. We're doing everything we can to try to bring some certainty to this and some stability to our future budgets so that we all can plan and you all can have some sense of your futures and your families' futures and your security.
But we will do that. I'm confident of that. And we are going through a difficult time now, but we'll get through it.
Anybody who has any answers to the budget sequestration issue? (Laughter.)
Well, I'll report that everything is quiet in Maine to your congressional delegation, that -- that you didn't have any advice for them.
Q: (OFF-MIC) building ships in the near future and for a long time to come?
SEC. HAGEL: The question was, will Bath Iron Works continue to be an asset to -- asset to America's future for a long time to come? Answer is a resounding yes.
Questions in the back, did you say, Carl? Just raise your hand if you've got a question. (Laughter.)
Thank you for your confidence. (Laughter.)
Anybody else over here? Captain Kirk, Captain Downey, any words from you?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, thank you. Thank you all very much. And best to your families. And happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)