U.S. Sen. Timothy Kaine, D-Va., met Wednesday with about 25 cadets from the University of Virginia’s three ROTC programs to talk with them about the federal budget sequestration process, their future in the military and value of teamwork.
In his remarks, Kaine discussed the impact that veterans and the armed services have on Virginia. He said while one in eight state residents is a veteran, one of every two or three people have a connection with the military, through a family member, serving themselves or being in a military support industry. He noted that one of his sons completed a Naval ROTC program.
Kaine serves on the Senate’s Budget, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees – all of which have a connection with the armed forces, he said.
Kaine’s stop at U.Va. is part of a tour he is making of the military bases, defense contractors and veteran’s facilities across the state this week to gauge the impact of reducing spending on defense. He said the cuts that will automatically go into effect March 1, absent a political agreement before then, could jeopardize military preparedness and economic strength of the country.
In talking to the cadets, Kaine blamed the budget problems on senators’ inability to compromise.
“If you watch television, whether its Fox News or MSNBC, you would think the difference is ideological,” he said. “It’s not really. It comes down to poor communication and teamwork skills.”
ROTC cadets learn teamwork and compromise as a part of their training, Kaine said. “You need to rely on each other,” he said.
He said while the House of Representatives operates on a party caucus system, which is more partisan, the members of the U.S. Senate should place the country first, their state second, their personal relationships third and then party loyalty should come in fourth.
“The teamwork ethic in the Senate has eroded,” he said. “Differences of opinion are a good thing, if they are handled in a controlled way. They could be helpful. We need a commitment to compromise.”
He said while the cadets should not comprise their principles and integrity, any endeavor with other people, whether it is a family or a government, requires concessions to get along.
He said that the path to success lies in clear goals and personal relationships, and that clear goals are attained through leveraging personal relationships.
Kaine highlighted the possible impacts of a sequestration, should a budget compromise not emerge. He said he has talked with defense contactors who are considering layoffs, and predicted that the potential cuts will also hurt the military in intangible ways.
“Part of the long-term damage is to the trust within the military,” he said. “Some of you are thinking about careers in the military, but because of budget considerations, you have to ask yourself if a military career is realistic.”
He said the cadets of today could be the leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of tomorrow, but he said potential leaders could forsake the military.
“We need to think downstream because these problems could jeopardize future leadership,” he said.
After meeting with the ROTC students, Kaine made his way to U.Va.’s Old Cabell Hall, where he introduced John Kerry as he gave his first major policy speech as the new U.S. secretary of state.