U.S. Senate candidate George Allen donned a state-of-the-art, heat-activated cooling vest and made his way around the offices of a small defense contractor in Northern Virginia Tuesday, highlighting an example of a business already being impacted by looming federal defense cuts that have fast become a political flashpoint.
The visit to First Line Technology in Chantilly was no accident: First responders and the federal government buy the vests and other emergency equipment from the company. The proprietors want to expand the 10-person operation, but with the budget uncertainty, they said, they’re essentially stuck for the moment.
“The point of all of this is the Department of Defense does want your product,” Mr. Allen said to co-founders Amit Kapoor and Randy Sakowitz. “The only problem is you have no idea right now with all this uncertainty and this deal — you have all these devastating cuts to defense, disproportionately to defense — whether they’re actually going to be able to procure it.”
Mr. Allen, bucking some in his own party, opposed the deal Congress reached last summer to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, citing the lack of an ironclad balanced budget amendment and the potential harm it could do to national defense and Virginia’s economy among his reasons. After a Congressional supercommittee failed to find additional cuts, the country now faces the prospect of about half a billion cuts in defense spending that will start to take effect next year absent action from Congress.
“It gives you a much better context,” Mr. Allen said of the visit. “These are real people, creative small businesses, that are helping our troops, and could better help our troops that are being prevented from doing so because of the failures in Washington.”
The issue has become especially critical in battleground Virginia and in Mr. Allen’s race against Democrat Tim Kaine, given the state economy’s heavy reliance on the defense industry. Mr. Allen has dinged Mr. Kaine for supporting the deal last year, but Mr. Kaine says he opposes the cuts as well and has criticized Mr. Allen for his “all-cuts” approach to solving the nation’s deficit problem.
“We’ve already tried it George Allen’s way, and we can’t afford to go back,” Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Fairfax Democrat, said in response to Mr. Allen’s visit. “Instead, we need a leader like Tim Kaine who will work across the aisle to take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, including using new revenues and significant savings to protect critical investments in our economy and strengthen our national defense.”