U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones painted a dismal picture of the nation’s financial affairs Monday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
Speaking before about 175 Havelock-area business leaders at the Federal Update Luncheon sponsored by the Havelock Chamber of Commerce, Jones said he sees no signs that the extreme budget-cutting measures known as sequestration could end anytime soon.
“I don’t see that changing for at least another year,” the state’s third-district Republican said.
Sequestration has resulted in furloughs for thousands of civilian military workers, including six days of lost wages for workers at Cherry Point’s Fleet Readiness Center East, the state’s largest employer east of I-95 with more than 3,300 people.
“I am very disappointed to be part of a system that’s not doing right by the American people,” Jones said, referring to Washington as the “Sodom and Gomorrah of money.”
Jones made a point of telling those attending that he was one of 66 Republicans to vote against the bill that created sequestration.
Describing himself as a “Ron Paul Republican,” Jones said that fellow legislators in Washington are going to have to “wake up and become adults.” He said he would vote against an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.
“You don’t ever get caught up,” he said.
Jones also addressed issues in the Middle East, citing what he called wasteful spending in Afghanistan and the loss of too many American lives.
“The American people are sick and tired of the war in Afghanistan,” he said.
The veteran legislator in his 19th year in Congress also said he was concerned about possible American involvement in Syria.
“I do not understand why we continue to police the world,” he said. “I am not going to support sending any troops to Syria. We can’t even take care of our streets in Havelock. How can we take care of Syria? I will never again support sending our troops to any foreign land unless we debate it on the floor of the House.”
On a positive note, Jones said the future of FRC East is “bright.”
Speaking on the subject during the luncheon, Col. Blayne H. Spratlin, commanding officer of the aircraft repair facility, said that sequestration had meant a temporary 35 percent reduction in productivity for the facility.
“It really hurt us,” he said.
He said the reduction of furlough days from 22 to six was a good thing.
“Hopefully, we’re going to get some of our momentum back,” Spratlin said, adding that he was concerned about 2014 and 2015.
“We don’t know what those years will hold for us,” he said.
He said the facility continues to focus on reorganization, re-engineering and rate reductions, in spite of the effects of sequestration. He cited a 9 percent decrease in cost of parts and 17 percent decrease in the cost of aircraft repairs.
He said modification work continues on the first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which is expected to wrap up by Sept. 25, with the facility also handling auxiliary power unit work on all three versions of the latest jet aircraft.
“We want to see all the workload we can on the F-35,” he said.
Still, he pointed out that a new multi-million dollar lift fan maintenance and repair facility scheduled for 2018 has been pushed back to 2020.