Defense secretary defends furloughs at Joint Base Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Calling Department of Defense furloughs "the last decision I wanted to make," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to a crowd of hundreds at Joint Base Charleston on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of civilian employees were furloughed as a result of sequestration – the $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts.  Approximately 1,374 civilian employees at Joint Base Charleston are being forced to take 11 unpaid days, according to spokeswoman Rose Alexander.

Hagel said he wanted to visit bases affected by the furloughs.

"I just really wanted to come out and explain why I took the action that I did and give you a chance to ask the questions," Hagel said to about 300 civilians at a town hall meeting at the base.

Sandra Walker, a registered nurse with the 628th Medical Group, asked Hagel about the possibility of future furloughs if defense spending is cut again next year.  Walker has six children and says she works a second job to make up for the lost income from the furlough.

Hagel said a second round of reductions would mean the loss of jobs, as well.

"No one is going to be happy, I get that," Hagel said.  "But my job wasn't to make people happy.  My job is to prepare you, this institution, and the country, for what may well come."

Hagel's visit was a part of a three-day domestic trip.

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