Military task force hires executive coordinator

jwilkinson@thestate.com June 7, 2012 

The S.C. Military Base Task Force — the group appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to protect the state’s military installations during the upcoming defense budget cutbacks — has hired an executive coordinator.

Retired Maj. Gen. William “Dutch” Holland, former commander of 9th Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, was tapped to coordinate the efforts of the state’s military communities and educate lawmakers and the public on the importance of the military in South Carolina.

Holland’s work with 9th Air Force and the Pentagon and his experience as Sumter Base Defense Committee head qualified him for the post, said Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who heads the state task force.

“We searched a lot of corners for someone who just perfectly fit, and he perfectly fit,” Eckstrom said.

Haley, through a spokesman, said she was “thrilled to welcome Maj. Gen. Holland to the team as we speak with one voice to protect our bases.”

Holland replaces Brig. Gen. George Patrick, who became S.C. Deputy Commerce Secretary in February 2011.

His appointment comes at a critical time for the state’s military installations — which along with defense contracts pumps an estimated $16 billion a year into the state’s economy.

The U.S. Department of Defense has asked for another two rounds of Base Realignment and Closure – called BRAC.

Experts believe the $487 billion in cuts already announced will have little effect on South Carolina. But another $600 billion in cuts could be required because of last year’s debt-ceiling standoff in Congress and the failure of a congressional “super committee” to make $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. That failure could trigger automatic cuts – half to the military, half to domestic spending – called sequestering.

Holland said educating lawmakers and the public about the dangers of sequestering will be high on his priority list.

“We need to be out talking to veterans groups, schools and chambers of commerce to make sure they understand the potential impact that both BRAC and sequestering will have,” he said.

Studies have shown that Fort Jackson in Columbia, Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter and McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover pump $7.1 billion a year in total economic impact into the Midlands economy. That’s $1 billion more than the estimated economic impact of Boeing on the Charleston area.

Military installations in and around Charleston add an additional $4.7 billion a year to the state’s economy. And Beaufort’s three installations add $1.2 billion a year. The cuts also are a threat to the Upstate, with its $2 billion a year in defense contracts held by companies that supply the military.

Holland, 59, is a North Carolina native but is no stranger to South Carolina. His first assignment was flying A-10s at the old Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, and he has had a lake house at Lake Marion for 30 years. He has been a full-time resident since he was appointed 9th Air Force commander at Shaw in 2007.

Holland, a retired two-star general, will officially serve part-time at a salary of $35,000, Eckstrom said.

In addition to education, his duties will include coordinating the various efforts of the state’s four primary military communities — Columba, Sumter, Charleston and Beaufort — to protect and enhance their bases.

While those efforts often take place unilaterally, “I need to make sure we are all in sync and working along the same lines,” he said. “We need to continue at the state level to support their efforts.”

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