Virginia Senator Tim Kaine got a first-hand look at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, Va. during an Aug. 27 visit to the installation, where he met with Navy leaders and toured the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC), the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and the Joint Warfare Analysis Center.
Kaine last came to Dahlgren when he was the lieutenant governor serving on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. He is currently a member of the Senate Armed Services, Budget and Foreign Relations Committees.
Prior to his tour of NSF Dahlgren, Kaine met with board members of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, who described the foundation’s mission and progress in establishing a Dahlgren museum. Those efforts will soon take the public stage as NSF Dahlgren celebrates its 95th anniversary in October.
During his tour of Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, Kaine visited with Sailors at ATRC and was briefed by NSWCDD officials about the progress and capabilities of the Directed Energy Program.
During a media availability incorporated into his visit schedule, Kaine met with reporters for a discussion that centered on the relationship between two high-profile issues: the military budget and the worsening situation in Syria.
Kaine emphasized his efforts to “turn off” the sequester in February. He was able to organize 53 votes in the Senate to overturn the cuts, falling short of the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster. Another effort in March, the Senate’s first proposed budget in four years, did not find support in the House.
“We proposed a budget in March that would have replaced sequester with a different strategy of targeted savings, yes, but not to the degree that sequester is cutting our defense budget,” Kaine told reporters. “Furloughs would not have been necessary.
“I’m very committed to continuing to work to find a larger budget solution that eliminates sequester,” he emphasized. “If we’re going to deal credibly with our deficit, we need to find targeted savings, but the sequester is across-the-board, blunt savings. [The sequester cuts] are not targeted at all; it’s exactly the wrong way to deal with our budgetary issues.”
Discord between the House and Senate on budget matters can only be overcome through compromise, and the chaotic state of world affairs exemplified by Syria only highlights the need for cooperation, said Kaine.
“The world is not getting safer; it’s getting more dangerous. Priorities like Dahlgren and the work that goes on here are not getting less important; they’re getting more important. So I’m hoping that the combined state of all this will force the two houses, both parties, the executive and the legislature, to sit down and this fall find a budget deal we can live with,” the senator said.
While the nation faces some tough challenges in the near future, Kaine said the improving economy and declining deficit projections makes a deal achievable. “Let’s take advantage of it to come up with a better alternative to sequester.”
The sequester is affecting the military’s options in Syria, said Kaine. “Generally, what the military has the ability to do still, is to do the thing we have to do today, but you take it out of things you ought to be doing to prepare for tomorrow.”
Kaine has no doubts about the perpetrators of the Aug. 21 chemical attack in Ghouta region east of Damascus. The attack, which occurred three days after a UN inspection team arrived in Damascus, is widely believed to have killed more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians.
“They crossed the red line,” he said. “If you define that red line and we have for a very long time—that you shouldn’t use chemical weapons against civilian populations and no nation has for 25 years—then this is an intolerable step and a desperate one by the Assad government.”
Kaine expressed hope that other nations would participate alongside the U.S. in any response against the Assad regime and emphasized the need to the Obama Administration to coordinate with Congress.
Later that evening, Kaine was the keynote speaker for a dinner meeting with the Military Affairs Council of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce. He thanked the council for all it does to preserve Virginia’s military heritage.
“One in three Virginians has a direct connection to the military,” Kaine told the council. “We’re connected not only in people, we’re connected in history. The map of Virginia is a map of American military history: Yorktown, Appomattox, the Pentagon, the Bedford Boys.”
Kaine, whose son is a newly-commissioned officer in the Marine Corps, returned to the topics of the budget and the Middle East. “The events of the last month in Egypt and Syria should tell us that we’re playing with fire if we continue to do stupid budgetary things that jeopardize defense.”
The implications of cutting research and development in the military affects the retention of highly-skilled innovators at a place like Dahlgren, which in turn affects more than just the military, said Kaine. “Some of the research that’s being done here at Dahlgren is earth-shattering, it’s game-changing. Not just militarily, but the potential civilian and economic applications are just fantastic. If you have people who are doing that work and they feel like they going to face a furlough… they won’t do this kind of work. They’ll do other kinds of work.”