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Sec. Hagel says 'dark cloud' hangs over military's future

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with soldiers, civilian employees, and their families at Fort Bragg Monday for a town hall-style meeting to discuss military readiness, sequestration and civilian furloughs.

He also toured the Fort Bragg Soldier and Family Assistance Center and see a demonstration of readiness equipment.

Hagel said "a dark cloud looms over this institution" with cuts ahead.

"Furloughs were the last thing I wanted to do, but I had to protect military readiness," Hagel said.

About 8,400 civilian employees at Fort Bragg are being furloughed for up to 11 days now through Sept. 30. The unpaid days off equal a 20 percent pay cut over the next three months. Local officials are worried about the potential impact to the area's economy.

Hagel says the Pentagon's number one priority is making sure the military is ready to protect the country. He says they are ready to do that, but that has led them to make some tough decisions on what else they have to cut.

He says next year the department of defense could face another 52 billion dollars in cuts which leaves the future uncertain.

"We're in this together, we'll come out of it together," said Hagel. He reassured the crowd that he and other leaders are looking at every option and doing everything they can to prevent future cuts.

" I suspect this is the most difficult time of your service, I know that, I accept that, I understand that, your leaders understand, but we have no choice but to get through it, and we will get through it." said Hagel

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