Summary Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) maintain homeostasis and regenerate the blood system throughout life. It has been postulated that HSCs may be uniquely capable of preserving their genomic integrity in order to ensure lifelong function. To directly test this, we quantified DNA damage in HSCs and downstream progenitors from young and old mice, revealing that strand breaks significantly accrue in HSCs during aging. DNA damage accumulation in HSCs was associated with broad attenuation of DNA repair and response pathways that was dependent upon HSC quiescence. Accordingly, cycling fetal HSCs and adult HSCs driven into cycle upregulated these pathways leading to repair of strand breaks. Our results demonstrate that HSCs are not comprehensively geno-protected during aging. Rather, HSC quiescence and concomitant attenuation of DNA repair and response pathways underlies DNA damage accumulation in HSCs during aging. These results provide a potential mechanism through which premalignant mutations accrue in HSCs.