The excerpts are from a story by Peter Bodley
For Hagel, the most important issue facing the United States, both in the near term and long term, is not the threat of terrorism, although that is real, but rather the country's ability to retain its competitive position in the world, he said.
"We are the greatest society, country, form of government history has known," Hagel said.
Must be competitive
But to continue that success, the country must not lose its competitiveness, he said. "It's not so much we are falling behind, but others are catching up," Hagel said.
And, there has been some erosion in the country's ability to retain that competitive edge in the global marketplace, notably in investments in such important areas as education, infrastructure, research and development, according to Hagel.
Hagel is concerned that while President George W. Bush is talking about the need to boost math and science education in this country, his budget is proposing to cut education funding "at a time when we need more investment."
As it is, the
United Statesis importing people for high tech jobs in the country because the " inventory is inadequate," Hagel said. U.S.
"It is frightening to think we don't have the talent in highly specialized areas because we can't keep importing it," he said.
And more research and development to diversify energy resources in this country is needed in order to "propel growth," Hagel said.
Hagel is optimistic the country can maintain its competitiveness in the world. "There are tremendous options and opportunities," he said.
Americans have always responded to challenges by finding solutions, Hagel said.
"But the margin of error in dealing with these challenges is essentially gone," he said.