PARKERSBURG - After visiting sites in Wood County Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., spoke with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel editorial board, discussing the current U.S. budget debates, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and efforts to keep the Naval Junior ROTC program at Parkersburg High School.
Rockefeller, who has represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 1984, said the next debate will be over the budget and raising the debt ceiling. He said raising the ceiling is important. He said the alternative is default.
"If we don't raise the ceiling it will be 1932 times seven," he said. "It will be catastrophic for everyone."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., spoke with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel editorial board.
Since 2001 the Senate has voted to raise the debt ceiling 11 times, Rockefeller said.
One area of the budget Rockefeller said where cutting can be done is in defense.
"The Department of Defense does a quadrennial review of its $770 billion budget," he said. "Under the law they cannot touch the budget amount. I'm not sure when that law was passed or who voted for it; that is one thing we are reviewing."
In many cases, he said, the defense department is forced to keep projects going that are not wanted or needed.
"They have these planes that take off like a rocket," he said. "The department does not want them, (Defense Secretary) Bob Gates does not want them, but it is there because it benefits certain areas."
Rockefeller said the United States should have never been involved in any wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya because of tribal rivalries in those countries.
"Iraq was stitched together by the United Kingdom in 1918 and it has always been between the Sunni and Shiites and it will revert to that when we leave. It's sad because we've made an effort to change."
In Afghanistan, he said the same is true.
"We are always about to control the Taliban but we never do," he said. "Al-Qaeda is a multi-headed serpent and they do not need Osama bin Laden to tell them what to do."
Rockefeller said Afghanistan dominated the market for poppies.
"We put things up and they rip it down," he said. "We will not change them, what will happen is they will go back to what they were."
On Libya, Rockefeller said there is little intelligence on the government and its leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"His people are defecting and we don't know what to make of it," he said. "The Chinese in their art of war said you should know your enemy before you pick a fight; we don't know them."
Rockefeller spoke about keeping the Naval Junior ROTC program at Parkersburg High School.
He said he has spoken to Rear Adm. David F. Steindl and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia.
Rockefeller said after speaking with them he has come back with the impression the program will be continued.
"They have said if the local board of education will pay for the program, the Navy will give them the materials for the program and put them back on the list," he said.
Rockefeller said he was sympathetic to their situation with the budget, but he said they needed to keep the enrollment at a certain level.
He said while the Junior ROTC has enough freshmen students who have said they are interest to put the program above 100, they do not count toward the Navy's enrollment requirement.
Rockefeller said there are many good causes to fight for and it will take many years to resolve the problems.
"Budget cutting will go on for years," he said. "But we can't cut our way out of the deficit," he said. "We need to leave something that will allow America to be America. How do we keep going so there will be some growth left."