Kaine meets with Pentagon officials to discuss budget issues
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committees, today met with top officials at the Pentagon, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, to discuss the impact of sequestration in Virginia. The discussions covered the 90,000 civilian employees at the Department of Defense who will be furloughed, reductions to military base operations across the Commonwealth and delays in training and deployments that could decrease readiness. Kaine also spent time talking with civilian employees at the Pentagon about the effects of announced furloughs.
“Today’s meetings at the Pentagon underscored a critical issue – the inability of Congress to compromise on budgetary matters is hurting our national defense and our economy. Moreover, it is already making life harder for those who are already risking all for the good of the country,” said Kaine. “While I was pleased to hear Pentagon leadership pledge to do all they can do minimize harm, there is no substitute for Congress setting partisanship aside to return to compromise and stable decision-making on fiscal matters.”
During his meetings, Kaine noted additional announcements made over the weekend that would heavily impact deployments from Virginia, as well as readiness overall. The U.S. Navy announced the deferral or cancellation of six ship deployments, including the USNS Comfort, and the shutdown of an air squadron wing based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, the VFA-34 Blue Blasters. In addition, it was announced funds to the VirginiaClass submarine advanced procurement could be delayed or jeopardized.
Kaine later joined DOD employees during lunch in the Pentagon cafeteria to discuss the impacts of announced furloughs. The furlough days could mean roughly a 20 percent pay cut over a nearly six month period for thousands of civil servants. The furloughs for more than 90,000 employees could result in a payroll reduction of about $661 million in Virginia alone.
“For 90,000 DOD employees in Virginia, a 20 percent pay cut could mean the difference between making a car or rent payment or not, or paying back student loans on time or being able to spend money in ways that supports Virginia’s economy,” said Kaine. “Our nation’s public servants deserve better and it’s my hope we can find a solution that takes this unnecessary weight off of their shoulders.”
Kaine recently completed a defense tour across Virginia that included stops at Naval Station Norfolk, Newport News Shipbuilding, a National Guard armory in Staunton, Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, and Marine Base Quantico. During the tour, Kaine heard about how the sequester threat and budget uncertainty over the expiring continuing resolution have already affected Virginia, as well as the stark reality of how Virginia would be impacted once the across-the-board cuts took effect.
In Washington, Kaine has continually engaged with top officials from the Department of Defense on the impacts of sequester and budget uncertainty. Kaine supports a balanced deficit reduction plan to replace the sequester cuts that would consist of targeted revenue increases and specific strategic spending cuts. Kaine voted for a balanced proposal on Thursday that would have eliminated the across the board cuts and replaced them with a package of half revenue, and half spending reductions, while putting the country back on track for an orderly budget process. The measure earned a support of 51 senators but fell short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
Kaine will have the opportunity to further discuss the impact of budget uncertainty on readiness during an Armed Services Committee hearing tomorrow with Commanders of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.