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The United States must keep a forward presence in Europe even as defense budgets continue to decline, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Speaking in Bethesda, Md., on Feb. 18, Hagel said the United States already has closed 80 percent of its bases in Europe in recent years. However, "we still need bases . . . so that we have got platforms and assets and forces" ready if a problem arises, he said. "We've done a tremendous job on this, I think, of closing these places down that we don't need [and] using the ones that we do need," said Hagel. He noted that the remaining US bases in Europe make up a "very, very small percentage" of the defense budget. Hagel also highlighted the basing relationship the United States has with Japan and South Korea. "Not only [do they] let us use all those bases . . . they also add a lot of support, in terms of funding for those bases," he said. (Hagel transcript)