Hampton Roads congressional leaders address defense cuts, economy

WAVY

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Defense spending, local economy, shifts in national security strategies, and the Affordable Care Act are the issues of most concern to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. The chamber hosted four congressmen to take questions and give answers on Wednesday.

10 on Your Side asked them about the issues most important to the members there.

Congressmen Bobby Scott (D) 3rd District, Randy Forbes (R) 4th District, Scott Rigell (R) 2nd District, and Rob Whittman (R) 1st District agreed nothing has hurt defense spending and the local economy more than sequestration military cuts.

Scott said we have ourselves to blame: “We passed a $3.9 trillion dollar extension of tax cuts, and we did nothing about the $1.2 trillion sequester. That was a mistake.”

Rigell said across the board cuts can not be the strategy going forward, and those defense cuts have continuing negative effects in Hampton Roads.

“That we don’t address sequester, and that is a real possibility, but we are fighting as a delegation to replace it with something far wiser,” he added.

Forbes blamed President Barack Obama for not showing more leadership to take back defense cuts.

“Here’s what I blame: sequestration and the cuts that took place before the sequestration,” Forbes said. “The president could have vetoed that. He could have stopped that. We were screaming and yelling about that when those cuts took place.”

He is also concerned with the shift in the national security strategy of  moving forces to west coast away from east coast.

“There is no question we are going to have a shift to the Asian Pacific area, but what happens is they all presume that we weren’t having the same kind of problems that we are having in the Middle East that we have,” Forbes said. “Those problems aren’t going away.”

Rigell added that there is increasing risk in the Pacific.

“That is why it is so important that we not only replace the sequester but also diversify the Hampton Roads economy,” Rigell continued. “And I think the No. 1 way to do that is through energy.”

The delegation emphasizes the delicate balance among defense spending, the local economy, and protecting what is ours in Hampton Roads.

“We are concerned with the aircraft carrier being home-ported in Florida rather than here,” Scott said, “That will hurt our economy because that is thousands of people that are spending their pay checks here, (if the carrier were to leave then) they will be spending their pay checks there.”

The message heard Wednesday is that diversifying the local economy is important, but protecting what is ours militarily remains top priority for local congressional leaders.

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