Chuck Hagel: Russia, China Closing Military Tech Gap With US

Image: Chuck Hagel: Russia, China Closing Military Tech Gap With US (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 06:13 PM

By Greg Richter

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Russia and China are closing the gap in military technological superiority, and more funding is needed to ensure they don't surpass the United States, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN on Wednesday.

In a half-hour live interview from Newport, R.I., Hagel told CNN that budget cuts have severely limited the military's capabilities. He especially lashed out at sequestration, the across-the-board budget cuts, as an "unaccountable, irresponsible way to govern."

Sequestration took $50 billion from the Pentagon after it already had seen $490 billion in cuts over 10 years.

The cuts forced a stand-down of all training and cuts in maintenance, Hagel said. They also prevented the Pentagon from going forward with military contracts that would allow the United States to maintain its technological edge.

The harm won't be seen immediately, Hagel said, but will be noticeable four years out and more if not reversed.

"This is going to be the tip of the spear," he told CNN's Jim Sciutto.

Hagel also talked about the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS), saying that more than 100 Americans are currently known to be fighting for the terrorist group responsible for the recent beheadings of two American journalists.

Hagel said that he, like anyone else, was sickened by the beheadings, which were videotaped by the terrorists.

He issued a warning: "It may be a look into where parts of the world may be going unless the United States, along with our partners and our coalitions, stop it."

"If we don't destroy it, it will get worse," he said, "and it will get wider and deeper."

President Barack Obama has faced criticism for not taking action on the group sooner, saying last week that he didn't yet have a strategy for dealing with the group in Syria, where its operations are based. The United States is hitting ISIS with limited airstrikes in Iraq.

Obama faced criticism again Wednesday when he said his plan is to weaken ISIS into a "manageable problem."

Hagel defended Obama, telling CNN, "I know this about this president, this vice president, and I know this about everyone in this administration, I know this about myself: we will do everything possible that we can do to destroy their capacity to inflict harm on our people and Western values and our interests."

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