South Carolina’s adjutant general says the state’s armories desperately need repairs.
“We were actually to the point that we couldn’t even afford flush valves for the urinals and things like that,” Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, told South Carolina Radio Network. “And we would actually end up buying it — a soldier would buy it and donate it.”
Livingston said he’s been trying to improve armory maintenance for the last seven to eight years ever since a national study detailed the extent of the maintenance needs. He is asking the state legislature for $5 million to make improvements
“We were able to bring attention to this issue and the legislature worked with us,” he said. “We were able to pick up a couple of hundred thousand dollars here and there and we were able to report back some progress. Very small progress.”
South Carolina has 68 armories; 11 of them are owned and maintained by the federal government. The state owns the remainder. Maintenance on the facilities is paid for by a 50/50 agreement between the state and federal governments. But Livingston said state money must be allocated first before the federal government will match it.
“You have to have the state dollars in order to be able to draw down the federal dollars,” he said.
Of those 57 armories owned by the state, the survey determined only seven were in “good shape,” Livingston said. 30 armories received a fair rating, which means the building can be occupied but with “serious deficiencies.” And 20 facilities received a poor rating for issues such as mold and leaking roofs.
“Places that you would not want to house your family and certainly that we don’t want to house our troops,” Livingston said. “Some of them we’ve had to move the supply rooms into portable storage, move some of our arms rooms into portable storage so that we do not damage the equipment. And in some of the areas of the armories we’re not able to put people in because they’re in such bad shape.”
“It’s not a thing that we can just close down excess armories,” he said. “We actually are short armories already. So it’s quite a dilemma that we’re in.”
According to that same study, Livingston said South Carolina has about half of the recommended armory space.
To bring the facilities up to what Livingston called a “minimally acceptable standard,” the National Guard would need about $65 million. Although about $32.5 million would come from the federal government, “there’s budget issues at the federal level now,” Livingston said. “We’re getting good consideration by our legislature and our governor but we’re having trouble matching the federal money.”
The Office of the Adjutant General has asked for recurring money over a six to seven-year construction schedule. Livingston’s office requested $5 million for repairs In the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget currently making its way through the legislature. That would be matched by the federal government.
“We started out asking for $1-2 million a year about eight years ago,” he said. “Then about five years ago we started asking for $5 million. That would give us $10 million a year if we were able to fully match it, which is a good, sustainable rate of construction.”
In the budget passed by the House, $1 million has been allocated toward armory revitalizations. The Senate plans to take up budget discussions after the Easter break.
Livingston said “quite a few” of the armories have historical significance. “Most of our armories were built in the 50’s and ’60’s, these older armories. And so they represent an evolution of our military as we’ve gone through defense of our country and our state.”
Livingston said the armories connect the National Guard to the communities.
“Not only is it a disservice to the service members and their families not to have top-notch facilities, much less minimal facilities, but it’s also a disservice to the community and the people of South Carolina. Just doesn’t project what we stand for.”