Senators discuss issues

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, August 28, 2014

The potential of Virginia’s modeling and simulation industry was one of several topics relevant to Suffolk raised during a Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce event with U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

Warner, the first of the senators to speak at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, touched upon the industry, that has a foothold in North Suffolk at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, as a way of diversifying Virginia’s economy.

“We have to keep talking about how are going to diversify this economy,” he said. “The modeling and simulation community hasn’t been aggressive enough to find other clients” besides the military.

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Commercial space is another diversification opportunity, according to Warner. It’s going to be a “huge growth area,” he said, adding, “We could put a stake in the ground and claim that.”

Kaine cited the state’s strong military ties, estimating one in three Virginians have a direct connection to the military.

The untargeted nature of sequestration cuts to the federal budget, if lawmakers can’t agree on reforming entitlement programs and taxing in a balanced way to reduce the deficit, are a “big issue” for the military, he said.

“We have to make sure we do it the right way, not the wrong way,” he said. “We don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

Kaine framed his argument against untargeted budget cuts that would disproportionately hit defense budgets by recounting the turmoil currently affecting various parts of the world.

He said he’s been telling the president that the threat of ISIL — also known as ISIS and the Islamic State — is real.

But any decision to take further military action against the terrorist organization needs to be made with care and the involvement of Congress, Kaine also stated.

“We have to stand proud for our values,” Kaine said. “There are people who are being persecuted for their religious views all over the world.”

Both senators spoke about the scandal that has engulfed the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the legislative response of “close to $17 billion in additional resources,” according to Warner.

“Money alone is not going to change this problem,” Warner said. “We need a complete change of culture.”

Robert McDonald, the new VA secretary after Gen. Eric Shinseki, got Warner’s vote of confidence. “I think he’s going to make those culture changes,” the senator said.