COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina needs to allocate funding to help protect its military communities from upcoming deep federal budget cuts, a task force committee said Tuesday.
The General Assembly, which has not given any money to the effort since 2009, needs to help fund strategies to be developed by Columbia, Charleston, Sumter and Beaufort, representatives on the S.C. Military Base Task Force said.
“We need a strategy (to protect the state’s military bases) and we can’t do it without outside help,” said task force member Mary Graham of Charleston. “South Carolina is far behind some other states.”
The military pumps close to $16 billion into the state’s economy each year. The state has major installations in the four military communities, as well as a heavy contingent of defense contractors throughout the state, particularly in the Upstate.
Military officials say another $600 billion in cuts could be added to the $490 billion already identified due to the fiscal cliff debate in the nation’s capital. To meet the cuts, both actual and proposed, officials expect another round of base closings and realignments, possibly as early as 2015.
“There are going to be losers,” said Columbia representative Ike McLeese, president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. “We want to be survivors.”
While a specific budget request has not been formulated, S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who chairs the task force, said Tuesday said it could be around $150,000 for this year. The money would help the communities with such efforts as improving installations, providing direct support for military personnel and hiring consultants.
Combined with task force reserves, the allocation would allow the state to back each community with about $50,000 to $75,000 each this year. The money likely would be a 30 percent match to local funds, said Eckstrom, who has asked the communities to identify “hard dollar uses” for the money, as early as next week.
“There’s a lot less push back when we can give assurances these funds will enhance our installations’ values,” he said.