South Carolina is providing $200,000 to be split evenly among four cities located near military bases in an effort to help those communities avoid possible base closures.
The money from the South Carolina Military Task Force will be divided evenly between the local chambers of commerce in the Beaufort, Charleston, Columbia, and Sumter areas.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who chairs the task force, presented a check for $50,000 to the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. The task force has begun meeting again in response to a possible $1 trillion in defense budget reductions over the next decade. “It’s very, very important to the overall state economy,” Eckstrom said, “There’s a tremendous amount of economic activity generated by our military (and) by our civilians who work on our military installations.”
Federal cuts known as sequestration took effect on March 1 and are expected to total $85 billion this fiscal year and approximately $1 trillion during the next decade. Half of that will be cut from the military. That’s on top of another $500 billion that was previously announced. Eckstrom said he and others fear the cutbacks will lead to another round of base closings, possibly as soon as 2015.
Retired Gen. William “Dutch” Holland is the executive coordinator of the task force. He says the local communities will have flexibility to use the $50,000 how they see fit, but he believes most of it will go towards both hosting federal officials and visiting them in D.C. “Showing the face of these military communities has a huge impact,” he told South Carolina Radio Network, “While it may sound like small potatoes as far as money goes… it means a lot.”
Eckstrom encouraged the local chambers to not use the money on consultants, instead encouraging those communities to use the money towards improving the base’s infrastructure when possible to help lower its costs for the Defense Department. “That’s not to say there’s no value in consultants, but I’ve never read anywhere that a consultant in Washington, D.C. saved a state.”
There are eight different military installations in South Carolina, but all are within the metropolitan areas of the four communities receving the grants.
South Carolina has lost two military bases to closures in the past two decades— Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1993 and Charleston Naval Base in 1996.