U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey on the impact of sequestration cuts on readiness, as well as how the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) proposal in the defense budget would potentially affect Virginia and whether it's the best way to reduce overall costs.
"I worry about the sturm und drang of BRAC. When BRAC is announced what happens is every community that has military assets -- whether they are going to be on the chopping block or not -- they lawyer up, they account up, they public relations up, and there's uncertainty and anxiety that can have its own economic effect," said Kaine. "We are dealing with challenges, but I'm not sure whether a BRAC round really is the best way to reduce costs when you add in the anxiety it creates and the economic effect of that, as well as all the external transition costs it generates."
Since taking office, Kaine has visited defense installations across Virginia including Fort Belvoir, Naval Station Norfolk, the National Guard Armory in Staunton, Marine Base Quantico, Naval Air Station Oceana, Langley Air Force Base and the Pentagon.
During his questioning, Kaine also noted the challenges the Department of Defense faces in its Operations Accounts as a result of sequester cuts imposed and increased operation tempo, asking how that shortfall would be handled without jeopardizing national defense.
"We never should have allowed sequester to happen. To make defense, one-sixth of the budget, take 50 percent of the cuts, that was foolish. To make non-defense discretionary, one-eighth of the budget, take 50 percent of the cuts, that was foolish. And it is important to acknowledge there was an alternative. We had an alternative in this body that had 53 votes. That's a majority of the body that wanted to turn off sequester and do it a different way In this instance, in late February, filibuster was invoked by the minority and we needed more than 50 votes. But that's not automatic. There was a tough vote in this body to turn off sequester that's having a significant negative effect."
During tours of installations and discussions with enlisted servicemembers, veterans and civilian employees across Virginia, Kaine has seen the toll budget uncertainty has taken on members of the defense community and their families. In February, Kaine strongly supported efforts to avert the sequester and more recently, as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, worked to ensure the damaging, across-the-board cuts would be replaced in the Senate Budget.