The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Sequestration inaction ‘not acceptable’
BY BILL FREEHLING
Congress must act soon to stave off drastic cuts to federal defense spending, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman told a crowd of about 100 people at Stafford County’s Riverside Center on Wednesday.
“Not taking action is not acceptable,” Wittman said. “Period.”
The Republican congressman’s remarks came during the first of four planned area seminars on the topic of sequestration, the term for a $1.2 trillion batch of federal spending cuts that will start taking effect in January if Congress doesn’t act to rescind them.
The sequestration cuts were put into place—with bipartisan support, including Wittman’s vote—last summer, as a temporary solution to the debt-ceiling fight and to stave off a U.S. debt default. The idea at the time was to create a draconian level of cuts that would pressure a “super-committee” to craft a less painful package of budget cuts in its place. But that never happened.
“The super-committee wasn’t very super, and here we are today,” Wittman said Wednesday.
Wittman acknowledged that current federal spending levels are unsustainable, and agreed that something must be done. But he doesn’t think slashing the military budget is the way to approach the problem, calling instead for reforms to the U.S. tax code and finding more sensible ways to cut federal spending.
Virginia’s economy could be greatly affected by sequestration. The cuts could eliminate as many as 200,000 jobs in Virginia, and Wittman’s district, which includes the Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads areas, is among the most vulnerable due to a heavy military presence.
Wittman fears it will be difficult for Congress to stave off sequestration before the upcoming elections because Washington is even more politicized than usual right now. But he said he will push for it and understands that the uncertainty is making life hard for defense contractors trying to plan next year’s budgets and personnel levels.
Dennis McBride, an executive in George Mason University’s Office of Research & Economic Development who is the new part-time executive director of the Stafford Research and Technology Park, also spoke at Wednesday’s seminar. He pointed out that the military doesn’t just defend the nation but also does research leading to cutting-edge products with commercial applications.
Area economic development departments and organizations have worked together to put on the series of seminars. Future topics will include teaching smaller government contractors to sell their goods overseas and to the private sector, and finding jobs for returning veterans.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405