With the threat of $600 billion in automatic federal cuts scheduled to hit the military in January, the Charleston County Aviation Authority is marshaling support from local governments for the state and region’s military bases and installations.
By Andy Owens
Published June 4, 2012
The Charleston County Aviation Authority is concerned politics could be a big threat to the state and region’s military assets if mandated federal cuts go into effect in January.
Aviation board member and Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor asked for the special meeting Friday to express concerns over the automatic federal budget cuts of $1.2 trillion that would sever about $500 billion out of the nation’s military budget.
Charleston’s Military Assets
On Thursday, the Charleston Regional Business Journal is holding an event with a panel of business, state and military experts to discuss the state and regional military assets. For more information or to buy tickets for the June 7 Power Breakfast, click here.
Pryor handed out a list of military assets, including the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, the Naval Weapons Station, U.S. Coast Guard, Joint Base Charleston, Beaufort Marine Air Station, Shaw Air Force Base and others.
“We’re going to do everything within our power to prevent the closure of the Charleston base,” said Aviation Authority Chairman and state Rep. Chip Limehouse.
Limehouse said the effort shouldn’t be limited to just Charleston, but should include other military bases and installations in South Carolina. Limehouse said that losing the Air Force base also would increase costs to operate Charleston International Airport, including security and runway repairs.
“We’ve had our cuts,” Limehouse said, referring to the closing of the Charleston Navy Base in 1996. “So I understand that we need more cuts in this country to balance the budget, and we do, but let’s close down the bases in Europe before we close down the bases in South Carolina.”
Pryor said the region should consider hiring a consultant to lobby for South Carolina’s military assets in Washington, D.C., because other communities do the same. Limehouse agreed and said the closing of the nuclear sub base showed that politics often guides decisions on base closings rather than what makes military and logistical sense.
“It did not make any sense from a logistical or military standpoint to close Charleston, because we had a deep-water port; we had the shortest pull from the ocean,” Limehouse said. “It was all politics. It was 100% all politics. We were the ideal sub base, yet we were closed.”
Pryor said that during a recent stop in Charleston, Sen. Lindsey Graham urged Charleston leaders to let executive officials know that South Carolina does not want any cuts to its military installations.
Pryor said suggestions that officials should wait until the November election are misguided because the community and public officials should hold the federal decision-makers accountable regardless of who is in the White House.
“Sen. Graham is on a mission,” he said. “It’s time Congress as well as the Senate as well as our two presidential candidates tell us what they are going to do. As the senator said, we don’t need to wait until January, because it will be too late.”
By a consensus, the Aviation Authority agreed to work with municipal and county governments to draft a resolution opposing cuts and expressing a desire to grow the military presence in Charleston and South Carolina. Specifically, board members wanted to support the recruitment of the U.S. Africa Command that is scheduled to close in Europe and be moved to America.
“I think the Aviation Authority is prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the senator and with County Council, and I’ll speak for the legislative delegation too,” Limehouse. “We’re going to stand should-to-shoulder with the senator.”
Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.