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U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's Remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue), June 2013

Speaker: Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Published June 1, 2013

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered these remarks at the First Plenary Session (Saturday, June 1, 2013) of the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Asia Security Summit (Shangri-la Dialogue) in Singapore.

Excerpts from the remarks:

"As a U.S. Senator I visited many nations in the Asia-Pacific region. What I took away from all these experiences was a firm belief that the arc of the 21st century would be shaped by events here in Asia. America has been a Pacific power for more than two centuries. Our ties to this region – economic, cultural and security – are unbreakable and broadly supported by Americans of both political parties. However, these long-standing, bi-partisan ties needed to be renewed and reinvigorated – they need this after a decade of war in the Middle East and Central Asia.

For these reasons, when I left the United States Senate in 2009, it was apparent to me that the U.S. would need to rebalance its capabilities and resources toward the Asia-Pacific region as it was winding down from two wars and complications, and reviewing its global interests and responsibilities around the world.

This rebalancing should not, however, be misinterpreted. The U.S. has allies, interests and responsibilities across the globe. The Asia-Pacific rebalance is not a retreat from other regions of the world.

Nevertheless, the world is undergoing a time of historic transformation, and Asia is at the epicenter of that change. The 21st century will be defined by the rise of new powers; the rapid spread of information, goods, and technologies; innovation and economic integration; new security coalitions that take on shared challenges; issues of trade, energy and the environment; and greater opportunities for all people of all nations to have a voice in shaping their own futures.

With this incredible promise come complications and challenges. In Asia, we see a range of persistent and emerging threats. These threats include:

  • North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, and its continued provocations;
  • Ongoing land and maritime disputes and conflicts over natural resources;
  • The continued threat of natural disaster, the curse of poverty and the threat of pandemic disease;
  • Environmental degradation;
  • Illicit trafficking in people, weapons, drugs, and other dangerous materials – including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • And the growing threat of disruptive activities in space and cyberspace.

These are the challenges of the 21st century. This morning I want to describe, from my perspective as the Secretary of Defense of the United States, what we can do together to meet these critical challenges. In particular, America and other nations of the Asia-Pacific must continue to strengthen existing alliances, forge new partnerships, and build coalitions based on common interests to ensure this region's future is peaceful and prosperous.

In support of this goal, America is implementing a rebalance – which is primarily a diplomatic, economic and cultural strategy. President Obama is increasing funding for diplomacy and development in Asia, including a seven percent increase in foreign assistance in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is providing new resources for regional efforts such as the Lower Mekong Initiative, which helps improve water management, disaster resilience, and public health. We have built strong momentum toward implementing a next-generation trade and investment agreement through the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. We are fostering regional trade and investment through our work in APEC and our support to ASEAN.

The Department of Defense plays an important role in securing the President's vision of rebalance. Our approach was outlined in the President's 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance,which is still guiding the U.S. military as we reorient its capabilities, its capacities to better prepare for future global security.

As we carry out this strategy, it is true that the Department of Defense will have fewer resources than in the past. It would be unwise and short-sighted, however, to conclude that our commitment to the rebalance cannot be sustained – particularly given the truth that even under the most extreme budget scenarios, the United States will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global defense expenditures. Like the employment of all resources, it is always a matter of the wise, judicious and strategic use of those resources that matters the most and has the most lasting impact.

The fact of the matter is that new fiscal realities present an opportunity to conduct a thorough and much-needed review to ensure we are matching resources to the most important priorities.

With that goal in mind, I recently directed a Department-wide Strategic Choices and Management Review. Although the review is not final, the direction I provided was to follow the President's defense strategic guidance, to focus new energy, new thinking on addressing long-standing challenges, and to make our defense enterprise one that better reflects 21st century security realities – including the rise of Asia."

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