Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel paid a visit to Fort Bragg Monday. In a town-hall style meeting broadcast live on News-14 Carolina, Hagel faced tough questions from the Ft. Bragg community, which has been hit hard with budget cuts caused by sequestration.
While speaking to the crowd, Hagel didn't mince words.
"In all of your careers in this room, I suspect this is the most difficult time of your service," Hagel said. "I understand that. Your leaders understand that. But we have no choice but to get through it. And we will get through it."
When asked, Hagel said he couldn't predict if more cuts will occur next fiscal year.
"I don't know," Hagel said. "We are preparing for different options. But I think it's fair to say if we are gonna be living with an additional $52 billion cut, they're gonna continue to be bad news with every aspect of our budget."
Sequestration cuts have caused over 8,000 civilian employees at Ft. Bragg to take up to 11 furlough days before September 30th. Those cuts led to shortened hours for many services at the base, and led Ft. Bragg to cancel 4th of July fireworks this year.
Hagel said he has no control over any future cuts. But he did say what's occurred so far, hasn't been good for the military.
"You all know that we have planes not flying, ships not sailing," said Hagel. "Soldiers not training. We are doing damage to our future readiness. We are doing damage to our readiness now."
Sequestration cut $37 billion from the defense budget in the 2013 fiscal year. If sequestration is extended, the Department of Defense is expected to lose $52 billion from its budget next fiscal year.
Hagel is scheduled to visit Camp Lejeune Wednesday.