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Warner: Sequestration Worse Than You Imagine

Virginia Senators Warner and Kaine speak in Reston and warn about sequestration's effects on the economy and national security.

If sequestration goes into effect in March, it will be "worse than you can imagine," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) told a group of mostly government contractors a Reston breakfast event Friday organized by the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Warner, along with junior Sen. Tim Kaine (D), spoke about the short-term and long-term impact of the potential $1 trillion federal budget cuts happen March 1 if Congress doesn't reach a compromise.

Half of that would affect the defense industry, which some estimates say could cost Virginia more than 207,000 jobs.

Sequestration could have a large impact in Reston, where hundreds of firms depend on government contracting, and thousands of workers are employed by various agencies and companies that could be affected.

The senators, along with Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran, have been making the rounds in the Northern Virginia business community the last several weeks to discuss how to prepare - and also what the legislators can do to avoid - sequestration.

Both Virginia senators are on the Senate Budget Committee.

"It's a perfect storm of both sequestration, combined with the end of the CR [Continuing Resolution] and how those two intersect," Warner said. "Thinking about managing the largest enterprise in the world — the federal government —and the Defense Department budget on two- and three-month intervals is absolutely stupid."

Kaine and Warner both pointed out that the effects of pending sequestration and budget uncertainty are already being felt in hesitation of contracts and assignments.

Kaine, a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recalled how Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said recently that the budget uncertainty is a real threat to national security.

"He said it is the single greatest threat to national security," said Kaine. "We are talking Iran with nuclear, nuclear North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Al Qaeda. Our ability to deal with all the external threats depends on having some degree of certainty so we can plan for the rest of the challenges we face."

Warner went over some of the possible fixes for avoiding sequestration. One — getting rid of the idea and replacing it with a balance of some additional cuts and revenue and start of a more comprehensive approach.

"Even under that scenario, there will be additional defense cuts," he said. "It cannot be done unless we do mix of cuts and revenues. But are we going to get it done before March 1? Doubtful."

The second approach is to "buy down a couple of more months" in order to reach a solution. Warner says that comes with issues, though. He said the imbalance could result in breaking many large contracts — and that could end up costing the government rather than saving it money.

The third idea — let sequestration happen so parties can see the urgency in fixing it.

"If we are going to have to go through a little before come to our senses, let's at least give secretaries appropriate budget authority to move money from one account to another," said Warner.

Kaine said "there is blame to go around" for the predicament the government is in. He pointed out that the Senate has not done a normal budget process in four years, and the President's budget is late. It is going to take a focused and bipartisan effort, he said.

"We all talk out of both sides of our mouths," he said. "But the day is here. We have to figure this out. We have to get back on a normal budget calendar. Long term, we've got to fix both sides of the balance sheet. We have got to make spending cuts. We have got to show we are serious."

More:

Kaine: We Have Been Sequestered Already

Connolly and Moran: Sequestration Likely

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joe brewer February 09, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Balance the budget!
William Campenni February 09, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Correction required to this sentence: "He (Warner, D, VA) pointed out that the Senate has done a normal budget process in four years, and the President's budget is late. It is going to take a focused and bipartisan effort, he said." Should read: "He (Warner, D-VA) pointed out that the Democrat Senate under Harry Reid has NOT done a normal budget process in four years, and the Democrat President's budget is late. It is going to take a focused and bipartisan effort to make up for the apathy and laziness of the Democrat Party, since the Republican House has already passed five budgets, he said." There. Fixed that.
DW1976 February 10, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Our defense budget has more than doubled since 2001. It is now equivalent to the next 13 largest national defense budgets COMBINED. We just can't keep building $300 million airplanes that can't fly without suffocating the pilot (F-35), $1 BILLION combat ships (USS Independence) that are fraught with problems, and still afford to cover the cost of providing FREE military services to South Korea ($20 BILLION a year). I guess we're just going to have to cut some jobs and grandma's Social Security check.
Bob Bruhns February 10, 2013 at 01:28 AM
This area is dependent on corporate welfare from the government. And the corporations in turn are dependent on wars for business. Both parties know this. Hence our leaders manage to stick our national nose everywhere it doesn't belong in the world, while neglecting our own real national interests and needs, and we make all of our critical policy decisions like a bunch of ignorant, punk schoolkids (which, sadly, we pretty much are). We don't remember the lies OUR party tells, or the crimes OUR party commits - they are OK with us anyway, aren't they. But oh boy, we NEVER forget the lies the other party tells, and the crimes the other party commits! THAT stuff is unacceptable! And then we wonder why we have financial troubles, and a more and more nutso society.

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