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Hagel underscores nuclear mission importance at B-2 base

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opened his final domestic trip with a stop at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Jan. 13, home of the 509th Bomb Wing -- the world's only B-2 Spirit stealth bomber unit.

Hagel told Airmen their military service plays a critical role in the nation's security and that service will shape their lives.

The defense secretary said while he'd served "when dinosaurs roamed the Earth," his Army service informed every part of his life that followed.

"It probably did as much to shape me and mold me and affect me as any one experience I ever had in my life," the secretary said. "... Everything I have done in my life, I have drawn from that experience in the military."

Nuclear triad

The nuclear triad is "always about strategic deterrence," Hagel told the Airmen. "It is about staying ahead, technology-wise, of our adversaries -- those who would want to do great damage to this country and our way of life and our allies'."

Modernization -- particularly of the nuclear enterprise -- is the key to national security, the defense secretary said.

Military modernization, Hagel added, was interrupted by sequestration and other fiscal difficulties. "That hurt us in many ways," he said, noting that modernization is the one area in which the U.S. cannot afford to fall behind.

"We have paid a lot of attention to that -- especially the last year," Hagel said. "We're committing more resources in our budget that we'll be presenting to Capitol Hill here in the next few weeks, so I want to assure you of that component of your job."

People are important

The Defense Department cannot afford to lose good people, he said. "We have to continue to assure that we are recruiting and we're bringing good people in to this business, because technology, modernization -- all the components that are critical for our national security -- are only as good as the quality of the people that we have behind those technologies."

Everyone in the military is linked, the defense secretary said. The success of any one service member is tied to the ability of every other service member to succeed, he explained.

"If one of you is weak, or if one of you falls down, or if one of you is not capable, it will affect the entire effort," Hagel said.

This is true in every challenge service members face, he said, from flying 36-hour missions in a B-2 bomber to confronting the problem of sexual assault.

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