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Sen. Warner, Rep. Wolf Meet Reston Business Leaders

Cyber security, budget cuts and national debt levels discussed at a Tech Town Hall on Friday, Jan. 10.

“We saw for a year the effect it had on the workforce, we saw the inability to plan, and if it continued at its rate, I think we would have seen an economic downturn that would have been a complete disaster.”

— U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Wolf, Warner Speak About IT Industry Challenges

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-10) spoke at a Tech Town Hall in Reston on Friday, Jan. 10, about the impacts of sequestration and the recently passed budget deal on North Virginia’s information technology and government services industries. Many of Reston’s technology industry executives attended the morning event, which was co-hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and the Professional Services Council (PSC).

“The purpose of today’s event is to provide a view from Capitol Hill of the politics of the budget from two senior members of Congress, and how they will approach the spending bill in Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015,” explained Alan Chvotkin, Executive Vice President and Counsel for PSC.

SENATOR WARNER, a former information technology industry investor and NVTC member, spoke first about recent cyber security lapses and the importance of realigning Congress’ budget priorities in 2014.

“This is going to be an area where we’re going to need your help,” said Warner. He said the government needs to prioritize innovations in cyber security, and must learn from the recent disastrous Target data breach from November to December 2013 that reportedly led to the theft of between 70 million and 110 million shoppers’ personal information.

“This is a huge growth area for many in the Reston community,” said Warner. He challenged Reston’s intelligence community to be industry leaders in improving national cyber security.

Warner also said that budget cuts from “sequestration stupidity” had impacted Northern Virginia more disproportionately than any other state in the nation in 2013.

“We saw for a year the effect it had on the workforce, we saw the inability to plan, and if it continued at its rate, I think we would have seen an economic downturn that would have been a complete disaster.”

The senator also tied in immigration reform as an important issue to a number of industries in Northern Virginia, citing the current immigration policy’s limitations on businesses’ ability to train some of the best talent coming out of American schools.

“If we can’t hire them here, they will just go across the border to Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia,” he warned.

Congressman Wolf addressed a broader range of national issues, including rising debt levels and national cyber security concerns.

“I could look at the list of who has been hit, and literally almost every one of you has been marked or hit with attacks on your devices,” said Wolf, pointing to numerous data thefts by Chinese hackers toward American businesses and government agencies, including his own office’s computers. A major part of Wolf’s address involved American budget priorities and the tremendous effects that increased debt will have on Americans in the future.

WOLF NOTED the disproportionate amount of money used to fund agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons, while agencies like the FBI and the National Science Foundation are losing out from budget cuts.

“Currently we we’re at $17 trillion in debt, $73 trillion of unfunded liabilities, and 10 years from now the debt will be $26 trillion,” he summarized. “At this rate, in 20 years, every penny that comes in will go toward interest on the debt, nothing toward cancer research, pediatric research, and nothing for Alzheimer’s research.”

Many of the attendees spoke up about their own concerns for Northern Virginia’s technology and information services industries, particularly with growing international competition. Suresh Shenoy, Executive Vice President of Information Management Consultants, Inc. (IMC) questioned how the U.S. could deal with China taking jobs in information management and intelligence, following his return from a consumer electronics convention in Las Vegas where he saw Chinese companies dominating the scene.

Hearing the growing discontent with the current national budget amongst Reston’s IT and government services business leaders, Wolf said that creating a better-prioritized budget would protect future Americans’ information security and national job growth.

“Are we in decline as a nation?” asked Wolf, before answering his own question. “If we pass a comprehensive, massive new package then I think we can honestly say that America’s best days are yet ahead.”