Hagel toured the Fort Bragg Soldier and Family Assistance Center and saw a demonstration of readiness equipment Monday.
Troops, family members, wounded warriors and civilian employees attended the meeting, which included any other topics people wanted to discuss.
About 8,400 civilian employees at Fort Bragg are being furloughed for up to 11 days now through Sept. 30.
"I know it's painful. It's the last thing I wanted to do, but I could not take the readiness line down any further," said Hagel. "You all know that we have planes not flying, ships not sailing, soldiers not training. We are doing damage to our readiness, future readiness."
The unpaid days off equal a 20 percent pay cut over the next three months. Local officials are worried about the potential impact to the area's economy.