Beaufort base preservation efforts get $50,000 boost from state

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 11, 2013 

— The state is adding dollars and support behind efforts to maintain and support Beaufort’s three military bases.

The S.C. Military Task Force presented a $50,000 check Monday to the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Military Enhancement Committee.

The task force is giving a total of $200,000 to four military communities across the state.

“We hope communities take that money and go out and raise funds from private sources or local government sources ... and put those funds into the strategy they are pursuing,” said S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, task force chairman.

Federal across-the-board spending cuts could affect more than 15,000 Lowcountry jobs and $636 million in direct employee compensation a year, according to a 2012 study by the S.C. Department of Commerce.

Three local military bases would be affected: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort.

The federal cuts, also known as sequestration, took effect March 1 and are expected to total $85 billion this fiscal year and approximately $1 trillion during the next decade. Half of that, plus $500 billion in previously announced reductions, will be cut from the military.

The Beaufort group has been working since the summer to try to protect the bases from cuts, and it hired lobbying firm Hurt Norton & Associates of Washington, D.C., to help it follow negotiations about sequestration.

The committee needs about $10,000 a month for its operations, and its chairman, retired Col. John Payne, said it has enough money to last through early 2014. The funding comes from a combination of chamber and local government assistance, as well as donations from businesses and groups, such as Realtors, that would be hurt by base closings.

Retired Maj. Gen. William “Dutch” Holland, executive director of the state task force, said the state money is a token of recognition for what communities are doing to counteract the effects of sequestration and future base realignment and closures.

“Nobody does it any better than the Beaufort community,” he said. “... I think you thoroughly love it, embrace it and understand the importance of those military members and their families – outside of the pocketbook – but also just for bringing the diversity to your great community.”

Payne said it’s crucial to show Washington that the bases and the area excel at a necessary function.

“If we do a better job of training, then that’s how we stay alive,” he said. “And we know we do a better job of training.”

The Beaufort committee is planning another lobbying trip to Washington.

“It’s one thing to write a letter, send them an email, but it’s another thing altogether to go up there, see everyone, shake hands with everyone,” Payne said.

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