U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a new member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, kicked off his three-day defense tour today with stops in Hampton Roads to discuss military readiness, shipbuilding, and the damaging effects of sequestration already being felt in Virginia.
Kaine began the day in Newport News, touring the Huntington Ingalls shipyard that employs more than 22,000 people.
"The construction and repairs done by workers at Newport News Shipyard is second to none and integral to a strong national defense," Kaine said in front of the USS Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier whose maintenance has been delayed on account of budget uncertainty. "Congress could learn a thing or two about teamwork from these patriotic workers in Newport News. But without certainty from Congress, their ability to build new carriers and refuel and repair other ships that are needed in theaters around the world will suffer."
During Kaine's tour, he continued to highlight the effects of sequestration on shipbuilding in Portsmouth during a roundtable meeting with private shipyard workers. Many of the private shipyards carry out the maintenance orders that may be suspended due to impending sequester cuts and an expiring continuing resolution.
"Delayed ship repairs will immediately be felt by shipyards in Hampton Roads, resulting in furloughs and layoffs that damage our defense and our readiness," Kaine said. "Both parties must come together immediately to prevent these disastrous effects from sequestration and go back to doing budgets in an orderly process. Just because we can't agree on everything doesn't mean we can't come together to agree on something that would prevent these deep cuts. Short term gimmicks like the sequester are bad for defense, bad for our budgets, and bad for Virginia."
This month, the U.S. Navy announced the USS Harry S Truman would not deploy for CENTCOM as planned as a result of continued budget uncertainty. The abrupt decision forced more than 5,000 sailors and their families in Hampton Roads to quickly adjust their lives to remain in Virginia despite the steps many had taken to prepare for an eight or nine month deployment.
Kaine addressed this issue during a tour of the Naval Station Norfolk, the largest U.S. Navy base in the world and the largest military installation in Virginia.
"My visit to Norfolk was a chance to hear directly about the effects of the Truman delay and other strategic decisions impacted by budget uncertainty," said Kaine. "What I heard from commanders and key officials is that the personal effects of this budget uncertainty will have long term consequences for our recruitment and retainment of the men and women who serve. We must keep faith with them and give them a future they can count on instead of the stop-gap measures Congress has been giving them."
Since taking office last month, Kaine has expressed his strong opposition to the March 1 sequester cuts, calling for a strategic realignment of budget deadlines during a series of roundtables, visits to military installations, Senate hearings, and in an opinion editorialpublished last week.Kaine was also assigned to the following three Armed Services Subcommittees today: Seapower, Personnel, and Readiness and Management Support.