RICHMOND - Sen. Mark Warner says Virginia needs to diversify the economy in the wake of sequestration cuts, which have hit the military-heavy commonwealth hard.
"Sequestration was about the stupidest option possible, and Virginia, we bore the brunt of sequestration cuts more than virtually any other state," he said. The 2011 Budget Control Act's spending cuts could take nearly 3,000 Army and civilian jobs at Fort Lee.
Warner appeared via Skype at Wednesday's AP Day at the Capital program, a gathering of journalists sponsored by the Associated Press Media Editors, Capitol Correspondents Association and Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Pro Chapter.
"We're asking our military to do more abroad, as we see threats from ISIL, when we see our troops deployed to Africa for Ebola," Warner said. The trouble will be finding additional funding for defense.
"The idea that that's going to come at the cost of cutting education, infrastructure and research isn't a good business plan for the country," he said. He thinks reform of the national tax code, and entitlement reform, are key to the budget issue.
The Army is in the planning process of downsizing from a wartime peak of 526,000 to about 420,000 troops. Under the latest Army report, Fort Lee would lose 2,794 troops - including 879 already cut in the deactivation of the 49th Quartermaster Group - and 746 civilians. That worst-case scenario would ding the region's economy by an estimated $338.4 million in sales and $243 in income, for a total of $581 million.
Warner also discussed Virginia's dependence on defense spending, highlighted in recent years locally by sequestration and the government shutdown. He thinks Virginia can take a prominent role in the areas of cybersecurity, unmanned aerial systems, commercial space operations and advanced manufacturing.
"I concur with the governor and others… we've got to think about diversification of Virginia's economy," Warner said.
"We have assets in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. We've got expertise at Virginia Tech," for cybersecurity. Read Full Arrticle.
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