Congressional team to visit Lowcountry military bases for fact-finding tour

The future home of the Marine Corps’ F-35B training center, the Marines’ oldest boot camp and the hospital that keeps them and thousands of Lowcountry retirees healthy will host key staff from South Carolina’s Congressional delegation Thursday as arguments heat up about federal budget cuts that local leaders say could gut national defense.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to showcase our local installations, to demonstrate their training efficiencies and cost-effectiveness, and to share our concerns about federal budget sequestration,” said Blakely Williams, president of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, staff from the South Carolina Congressional offices will tour the three military installations in Beaufort and Port Royal. The visit comes as critics of the federal budget-bludgeon called “sequestration” say the mandatory, across the board defense cuts will damage or even destroy America’s national defense.  As a result of the failure of the Super Committee to reach agreement on budget reduction measures, the Congress enacted a “sequestration” process to begin Jan. 1, 2013 which will cut approximately $600 billion from the Department of Defense over the next 10 years – on top of the agreed-to Defense Department reduction of about $500 billion.

Worse still, the sequestration cuts are across-the-board, affecting every element of the military, said Col. Jack Snider, vice-chairman of the Military Enhancement Committee, a former F/A-18 pilot and commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Participants in Thursday’s tours include key staff from the offices of Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Tim Scott, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Trey Gowdy and Rep. Mick Mulvaney.

The Congressional delegation staff will be traveling across South Carolina to tour military bases, ending with a day in the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s Military Base Task Force, working with local Chambers of Commerce, organized the visits.  “We have some of the most strategically important training bases in the continental U.S.,” said Col. John Payne, Beaufort’s representative on the S.C. Military Base Task Force and chairman of the Beaufort Military Enhancement Committee.  “Our job, now and into the future, is to make sure that Congress, the Administration and the Department of Defense understand and appreciate the cost-savings and training efficiencies provided by the Lowcountry installations,” Payne said.

Key points to be shared include:

  • · The Tri-Command at Beaufort, SC is a national asset with military facilities capable of expansion to increase cost-efficiency, joint-basing and training opportunities, and military value
  • · Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will be the Corps’ only F-35B training center, enjoys protected air space and local zoning prevents land encroachment, and provides unparalleled training with an inland bombing range, ocean TACTs range both within the local flying area
  • · Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island has the capacity to train more than double the number of recruits and provides multiple onsite rifle and pistol ranges, field training facilities and the Crucible training, all on an island protected from encroachment by marshes, creeks and Port Royal Sound
  • · Naval Hospital Beaufort provides medical and dental care to MCAS Beaufort and 17,000 annual MCRD Parris Island recruits, plus estimated 8 percent of the local population who are DoD retirees and dependents.

Those training- and cost-efficiencies, and capacities to expand, are critically important because of increased federal budget pressures, including sequestration, Payne said.

For more information visit to find a complete list of SC Congressional emails, key points and sample letters regarding the potential defense cuts. The Chamber, Beaufort County Council, Beaufort City Council and others are urging grassroots opposition to sequestration.