MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the second time in three months the Secretary of Defense has stopped in Hawaii. Secretary Chuck Hagel left Washington DC this morning starting an eight day trip to Southeast Asia. He kicked off the trip by speaking to about 200 Marines and Sailors at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
A casual Defense Secretary, wearing a lei and moccasins, spoke about serious issues including the rebalance in Asia and bringing stability and partnerships in that part of the world.
"The threats that confront the world are not unique to a region, to a country, to a religion, to an ethnic group, these are universal threats," said Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense.
He also took questions from Marines who focused on sequestration cuts and loss of benefits and resources.
"These are the realities. Life's tough. I wish I controlled more things than I do. So do you. But I don't," said Hagel. "Even with our downsized budget, and projected even more downsized, there is not a country in the world even close to our military budget."
He also made it a point to thank the people of Hawaii.
"The magnificent and gracious hospitality, the support they've given us all should be acknowledged," said Hagel.
The Secretary also greeted all the military members and gave them a coin. Then he met with three of Hawaii's Washington delegation.
"He is clearly a Secretary of Defense that understands the importance of the Asia Pacific region. That is why he is meeting with us. That is why he is visiting our Marines in Kaneohe. He is going to be a real asset for Hawaii and America," said Senator Brian Schatz.
"I thought it was very critical that the Secretary pointed out that the pivot to Asia Pacific is not just military, it's peace," said Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.
"The rebalance of the Pacific is a very important part of our national defense and Hawaii's role in that is critical," said Senator Mazie Hirono.
Before getting head high in diplomacy, the Secretary does plan to get his feet wet in the Pacific.
"The Congressional delegation and Governor Abercrombie gave me a visa to come in for a day, 24 hours so I can swim tonight before dinner," said Hagel.
After that evening swim and dinner the Secretary heads to Malaysia. He will meet with Defense Secretaries from various Southeastern countries. The Secretary plans to return to DC next Friday. It's unknown if he will stop off in Hawaii. No events are scheduled for the return trip.