NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was in Hampton Roads Friday, discussing defense budget cuts, sequestration and compromise.
Although Panetta has been tasked with downsizing the military, Hampton Roads business leaders rolled out the welcome mat in Norfolk.
"We know that he has, will continue, to have some tough decisions ahead of him, but he should know this, we are his partners," Craig Quigley with HRMAFFA said.
Both Panetta and Hampton Roads will need Republicans and Democrats to partner on a national budget compromise in order to prevent across the board cuts to defense spending mandated by sequestration.
"If we don't have elected leaders that are willing to come together and solve the problems that are facing this country, our national security is in jeopardy," Panetta said.
Sequestration was supposed to be an incentive for the so-called congressional "Super Committee" to reach a compromise on how to reduce the national debt.
"It was basically designed to force people to do what they're supposed to do," Panetta said. "So they put a gun to their head and said, 'If we don't do what's right we'll blow our heads off.' And they didn't do what's right and now the damn gun is cocked."
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the nation's $16 trillion deficit will continue to grow if partisan politics persist.
"Until we lance this boil and get our balance sheet right we are not going to solve all the other problems our country is confronted with," Warner said.
House Republicans, like 4th district congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.), say talk of compromise from their Democratic counterparts in the Senate is nothing more than talk.
"The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would stop sequestration," Forbes said. "It's the Senate though that refuses to pass anything and the President said he'd veto any legislation that would try to stop it."
"I'm not one that believes you have to chose between fiscal security and national security," Panetta said.
Panetta pledged to keep Hampton Roads' military community strong in the future, calling the region "a strategic national asset."
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