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Media Availability with Secretary Hagel at Eglin AFB, Florida

Press Conference

Location: Eglin Air Force Base, Florida

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Okay, folks. Excuse me. I'm Admiral Kirby, the press secretary. We're going to bring the secretary up here in a second. No -- the secretary won't have opening comments. This is obviously on-the-record. We don't have a lot of time to get to our next stop, so we'll keep this to just a few questions. And with that, I'll give you Secretary Hagel.

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL: John, thank you. Good morning.

Q: Mr. Secretary, when do you expect to have a decision on whether or not the F-35 will make it to the European air shows? And is it fair to say at this point that's not going to make it to RIAT [Royal International Air Tattoo]? And I have a follow-up to that.

SEC. HAGEL: Okay. Well, I think you heard me say that the inspections are complete. And I got a good report this morning from some of the pilots and the maintenance people, as I noted, on their thinking about this. What they're doing now is they're taking all the information that they got from the inspections and they're putting all that together and continuing the overall investigation to see, how does this all match up and what do we have?

I've said here, said it before, we're not going to put the F-35 in the air, send it anywhere until we are absolutely convinced and know that it's safe to fly. And that means, as to timing, I'll leave that up to the experts who will come back to us and make a recommendation.

Q: And General Bogdan expressed a lot of frustration of late with Pratt & Whitney and the quality of the work on the engine. Do you share those concerns, particularly in light of the current situation?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I know of the general's concerns. And I leave that up to our experts, who I have great confidence in. And I will listen carefully to what their analysis is and what they think.

Q: Thank you for being here, sir. You expressed your confidence in the F-35 as a platform with the local media, and we're curious about the F-35's future at Eglin. Looking over a 5- to 10-year timeframe, how do you see the basing decisions going in the future, the integrated training center?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, this base, as I've said in my remarks here this morning, is an essential part of our training, of our modernization, of our readiness, and the future of Eglin is very bright.

Q: ISIL appears to be still making advances in Iraq, moving into Kurdish areas. The Congress has expressed frustration about the strategy. Are we reaching a point now where the military needs to take strikes, needs to take action, take strikes?

SEC. HAGEL: As I have said, and the president has said, those are options that we continue to explore. And once the assessment teams come back with their thinking and recommendations and -- we'll take a look at those options in more specific terms.

A lot of questions always come with any possibility or decision whether to take strikes or not. So those are all questions that are being asked and factors are being -- are put into the process. And those are still options.

Q: But what sorts of questions do you mean?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, let's start with the impact of strikes. What do you believe you can accomplish? Where would you strike? When would you strike? Who would you strike? Once you start strikes, are you prepared to sustain strikes over a long period of time or -- or short period of time? Those are just the first set of questions that have not only impact issues and questions, but long term implications.

Q: In addition to the F-35 and the training and testing here at Eglin, we also have Air Force Special Operations Command and the Army Special Operations. What role do you see -- (inaudible) -- playing in the military 10 years down the road?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, this is an important area of the country for our defense establishment. The training, the history, the support, the tradition, the facilities, the infrastructure, all of that adds up to a strong future for a very close relationship with the Defense Department and this part of the country, in particular this part of Florida.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Thank you.

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