SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Inhofe. 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 in to play as we rebalance to the Asia- Pacific region.
MR. 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's 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's why we are doing what I think is exactly the right thing to do. It doesn't mean, as I said in my opening statement, that we are abandoning anybody or any part of the world. We can't.
SEN. HIRONO: Senator, and 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 re-balancing?
MR. HAGEL: Yes, and I look forward to it.
Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.