NEWPORT NEWS (AP) -- President Barack Obama told workers at Newport News Shipbuilding this afternoon that jobs are in jeopardy "because of politics in Washington."
He was talking about the effects of automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1 if there's no budget deal.
The White House blames Congressional Republicans for the impasse, claiming they choose to protect loopholes only enjoyed by the wealthiest and big corporations at the expense of jobs in Virginia.
"The longer the cuts are in place, the greater the damage," he said, adding "These cuts are wrong, they’re not smart, they’re not fair, they’re a self-inflicted wound that doesn’t have to happen."
With him at the event were Republican Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2nd D.), Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd D.), Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) President & CEO Mike Petters, HII Corporate Vice President Matthew Mulherin and Virginia-Class Submarine Construction Director Robert Meyer. They saw the bow sections of the John Warner and USS Illinois, two Virginia-class submarines currently under construction at the yard.
Mabus told 13News Congress needs to take action to make a deal before the cuts kick in.
Already, the budget battle has had an impact on the yard with the delayed overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
He noted that sequestration threat has already delayed repairs to one carrier and said one being built might not get finished and another might not get started at all. That was an important message since Newport News is the nation's sole carrier builder.
Obama's visit came days before the Friday deadline in which automatic government spending cuts kick in unless Congress acts to avoid them.
With its vast military and defense operations and civilian shipbuilding activities, Virginia is expected to be one of the hardest hit states if the cuts happen.
"We don't know exactly what's happening, if people are going to get laid off or what the deal is because of all the rumors. If we knew what it is that's going to happen, we would know what plans to make after that," said one shipyard worker.
Numbers from the White House this week show the impact that sequestration would have on Virginia. Officials say it would cancel the maintenance of 11 ships in Norfolk, defer four projects at Dahlgren, Oceana, and Norfolk and delay other modernization and demolition projects. Also, about 90,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $648.4 million in total.
The president landed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis just before noon, make a quick stop to shake hands with a select group of airmen, and then headed to the yard.