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Sec. Chuck Hagel talks security, Syria with PBS NewsHour

In the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recognizes his department’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its employees. But, he told Judy Woodruff, there were “red flags that didn’t get connected.” On Syria, Hagel said the military is ready to respond to any option the president decides to take.

Sec. Hagel on the Navy Yard shooting: “When something like this happens, something failed, something broke down. Now, we live in an imperfect world. And I said this morning, we don’t live in a risk-free society. But that’s not an excuse. That’s not good enough. We have to do more to assure the safety of all of our people, and we’re committed to do that. We’ll continue to do that. I’m committed to do it. Everybody is.”

On the threat of force against Syria: “I think most of us appreciate the fact that without the credible threat of force, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I think most of us are glad that we are where we are today, with the possibility of maybe we can get this chemical weapons issue, which was the initial issue, resolved through the United Nations, through a process of involving Russia and other nations. But as to the threat of military force, the president always has that option. That option is still there. The president has made that very clear.”

On comments from former Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta on Syria: “Well, first, I have the greatest respect for Secretaries Panetta and Gates, know them both well, worked with them over the years. Second, they have every right to express their opinions. I respect that right. I respect that opinion. I don’t agree with those opinions. And the fact is they don’t have all the facts in this.

“The president has made this very clear, and I think the entire National Security Council is. What the president was initially talking about, the option’s still on the table, is not some – in the president’s words, some pinprick, some signal if that option would be used. No, it would be far more serious than that. So I’ll leave it at that. They have every right to express themselves, but I obviously don’t agree with their assessment.”

On Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement to NBC News: “I saw that report. I’m glad to get that report, to hear that report. But I think the next step here is let’s see how Iran’s actions match their words. Let’s see what they’re willing to do to step forward, to activate those words. The United States has said all along – President Obama has made it very clear since he was elected that he’s willing to listen, he’s willing to talk. But there has to be some response that is built around and predicated on and anchored to actions to support their words.”

On U.S. military aid to Egypt: “Until Egypt moves back in a very clear way toward an inclusive, free, democratic country, then we will continue to withhold some of those military assets. Already the president has announced that we would not go forward with F-16s. We’ve already announced that we would pull down Bright Star military exercise.”

Read the full transcript here.

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