South Carolina military bases are not only having to ready themselves against the threat of base closure that occurs every ten years, but they must also deal with a lesser known issue–encroachment by local development. It’s also true that encroachment and base closure are connected. Bases aren’t worried about new housing and businesses coming onto their property, but just coming near it creates a problem.
Retired General George Patrick co-chairs the Military Bask Task Force, formerly known as the Base Realignment and Closure(or BRAC) Task Force, which was established as an advisory committee to the governor on military matters.Patrick says for the last three and a half years, encroachment has been his group’s primary focus, and the state of South Carolina, the governor’s office and local communities are crucial in mitigating property development issues. “For example, having high-density housing developments below flight paths of high-performance aircraft creates a safety and noise issue and can even hamper the ability of an installation to effectively carry out its mission.”
The state’s Conservation Fund aids the state in keeping buffer zones around bases.
Patrick says as the US Department of Defense looks at closing bases around the country, encroachment will be a primary consideration. He says the Defense Department can help with the control effort, but it takes local support and funding to create sustainability, in order to make a difference. “It’s where the military partners with environmental and conservation groups and the business community to smartly plan for the right kinds of development in the right places. That way we preserve wetlands and forest lands, and at the same time, enhance development of areas that are better suited away from flight and training areas.”
The state’s help in controlling local development around bases is particularly important as existing bases grow their missions and their size.
Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter will soon house the Third Army Command Unit now located near Atlanta, adding more than 1000 personnel, bringing a few thousand additional people to the area. $93 million in new facilities are being added. MacIntire Guard Base south of Columbia is boosting its responsibilities by as much as 40 percent. Ft. Jackson in Columbia will soon house a number of new training programs for the Army, including a chaplain school that will serve all branches of the military.