February 12, 2013

In Armed Services Hearing, Kaine Addresses Sequester Impact on Hampton Roads Naval Operations

Shared how discussion of budget uncertainty dominated Monday visit with Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine continued to argue against letting sequester cuts hit today at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with members of the military. In his opening, Kaine cited a roundtable discussion he had with wounded warriors at Fort Belvoir on Monday whose concerns were not of medical care, but instead of the budget uncertainty and its effects on their future.

“I expected I would do a lot of talking about medical care for active duty and veterans but they wanted to talk about budget uncertainty,” Kaine said. “They asked how budget uncertainty would affect the care they are receiving right now and the care their comrades in arms are receiving. They wanted to talk about budget uncertainty and TRICARE benefits…a guardsman whose full time civilian job is a DOD civilian job wanted to talk about what furloughs meant, and others who were facing imminent medical retirement wanted to talk a little bit about the workforce they were going back into and the potential effect on the economy of drastic cuts that would make it harder for them to get traction back into civilian life.”

The hearing included witnesses from all branches of the military including Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey, Under Secretary of Defense Robert F. Hale, Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond T. Odierno, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mark E. Ferguson III, Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark A. Welsh III, and National Guard Bureau Chief General Frank J. Grass. During his questioning, Kaine discussed the harmful effects temporary budget measures like continuing resolutions and dramatic cuts like sequester could have on military readiness.

During his questions, Kaine asked Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mark E. Ferguson III about whether decisions the U.S. Navy has made regarding the USS Truman and the USS Lincoln could become irreversible. “How long can we persist down this path before these decisions have an irreversible effect on our readiness and shipbuilding ability,” Kaine asked.

Recently, the U.S. Navy announced the USS Harry S. Truman would not deploy for CENTCOM as planned. This abrupt decision based on impending sequester cuts and budget uncertainty forced more than 5,000 sailors in Hampton Roads to quickly adjust their lives to remain in Virginia despite many who had rented their apartments, leased automobiles, budgeted for increased income, or taken other steps to prepare for an eight or nine month deployment.

Admiral Ferguson informed Kaine that the Navy would begin notifications on February 15 to private shipyards about deferrals of maintenance up to the point of the continuing resolution. Ferguson noted three carriers are currently tied up in delays in their maintenance and overhaul and that the Navy has effectively stopped training and certification of Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups due to budget uncertainty from the sequester and soon-to-expire continuing resolution. “The impacts under sequestration are, the longer we go, the greater impact on readiness for our forces and the longer recovery time and greater expense,” Ferguson said.

In previous hearings, Kaine has warned more announcements like that of the Truman will continue if the Congress does not return to an orderly budget process. Kaine has expressed his opposition to the March 1 cuts and called for a realignment of deadlines to provide for more strategic budgetary decision making during roundtables with defense contractors, at visits to military installations, at hearings with Secretary of Defense Panetta, and in an opinion editorial published in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.