WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly minted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is vowing to continue to build strong relations around world and engage with allies.

Hagel is telling the Pentagon workforce that he is committed to ensuring that the troops and department civilians are treated fairly and equally.

He is taking the helm of the Defense Department as massive, automatic budget cuts loom, and as complex negotiations with Afghanistan leaders intensify over winding down the war.

Hagel was sworn in during a private ceremony near his new office Wednesday morning, after a bruising Senate confirmation process. He said he then visited the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial for some time of reflection. He plans to spend his first day in the Pentagon meeting with his staff and senior defense leaders.

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