February 07, 2013

Kaine Questions Panetta on Sequestration, Delayed USS Truman Deployment at Hearing

Kaine Expresses Frustration on Behalf of Thousands of Sailors Who Expected to Deploy This Week

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine questioned Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey on the devastating effects sequestration is already having in Virginia. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Kaine voiced his agreement with Panetta that the greatest threat to our national security today is budget uncertainty. During his testimony, Panetta noted that budget uncertainty, “could prompt the greatest national security readiness crisis in more than a decade.”

“Our ability to respond to any of those security threats [Iran, North Korea, Al Qaeda] is completely dependent on a national security posture that is informed by budget decisions rather than budget indecision,” Kaine said.

Kaine asked Panetta about the most immediate effect of sequestration that’s been seen in Virginia – the delayed deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier based out of Norfolk. The Department of Defense cited uncertainty in its budget as the primary reason to delay the deployment of the Truman to the Middle East. The delay affects more than 5,000 sailors and will mean a diminished presence of the U.S. Military in the Middle East.

“I regret that you had to make a decision of this kind [delaying deployment of the Truman] that sacrifices our nation’s readiness.” Kaine said. “The decision about the Truman will be the first of many I suspect unless we do something that replaces sequester. We all know sequester was never intended to happen. ... We should, in my view, finish last year’s appropriations process, enact deficit reduction that will align the sequester with a budget process, and do a meaningful budget process, and make the decisions in the exact way your described.

“We are letting our budget drive national security. Even worse, we’re letting budgetary inaction drive national security and I fear greatly for our security posture as a result of where we are right now,” Kaine continued. “So Mr. Secretary, I gather we are likely to see many other things like the Truman announcement yesterday that would potentially weaken our readiness, demoralize our active duty men and women, and leave us less safe, unless we find an alternative to sequester.”

In response, Panetta expressed his hope that Congress will find an alternative to the sequester that will protect our nation’s military readiness.

During his opening statement, Kaine noted decisions like delayed deployment place an undue burden on thousands of sailors and their families in Virginia who had planned to depart home for eight months. Kaine cited a story in the Virginian-Pilot noting stories of airmen who are questioning their planned career in military service on account of the budget uncertainty that also threatens their job security.  

“The military today is filled with 20-year-olds or newly minted lieutenants who will be the future  leadership of our military,” said Kaine. “There is probably somebody in the military right now General Dempsey who will be a future head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but I suspect virtually all of them are wondering whether a career in the military is realistic given what they’ve seen from this body, what they’ve seen from the budget that would inform whether they could make that a realistic choice.”

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Kaine will participate in another hearing dedicated to sequestration effects next week.