A task force to protect the state’s military bases has been reactivated to fight what could be another round of base cuts and closures. This afternoon at the Capitol Complex, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom will reconvene the SC Military Base Task Force, which is made up of military, business and political leaders.
The team did not meet last year, but proposed defense budget cutbacks now loom: $490 billion over 10 years along with $500 billion in automatic cuts triggered by a failed attempt by Congress to trim the federal debt. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta mentioned setting up another Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), a military panel that researches and makes base closure recommendations. The most recent round was in 2005.
Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ike McLeese was on the SC task force then and favors the BRAC approach instead of letting the White House or Congress decide.
“If we have to take $490 billion out of the DOD budget over 10 years, I think the BRAC process is a better and more professional way to do it. The original concept is to insulate it as much as possible in a democratic society from the political process,” McLeese says.
South Carolina fared well in that last BRAC process. Task Force Chairman, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom says “We actually gained military presence in the state and we were one of the few states to do that. We now want to protect any of the installations that we have now and even increase the military footprint in the state if possible.”
After the 2005 BRAC activity, South Carolina bases gained programs and even troops from other states, including, the 3rd Army’s move to Shaw Air Force Base and Fort Jackson taking on more training responsibilities for the Army.
Eckstrom has asked representatives from each base community — Beaufort, Charleston, Columbia and Sumter–to report today on what they are doing to get ready for the next base closure round.