A group seeking to defend Beaufort County's three military installations from looming across-the-board spending cuts and potential base closings will get $20,000 from the Town of Hilton Head Island.Members of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee told Town Council on Tuesday that cuts would devastate Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort.
The area also needs to begin preparing to protect the local installations should Congress approve a Pentagon request for base closures in 2013 or 2015, committee member Jon Rembold said.
The broader cuts would whack $600 billion from the defense budget over the next decade, Pentagon officials have said.
The committee, which has already received $125,000 from Beaufort County with another $125,000 pledged, has made similar appeals to Bluffton, Port Royal and Beaufort.The three bases have an estimated annual impact of $1.2 billion and employ more than 8,700 military and civilians and contractors, according to a study by Coastal Carolina University commissioned by the Beaufort chamber.
"The military contributes just less than tourism to the county's economy," Rembold told council. "If that leg gets kicked out from under us, that will be painful."
Council members agreed the pain of base closures would be felt on the island.
"Hilton Head residents do not realize how big a role (the bases) play in our financial livelihood in our county," Councilman Lee Edwards said.
The council voted 6-0 to give a total of $20,000 over the next three fiscal years to help pay lobbyists and other expenses related to fighting the base closures, including travel, marketing and public relations costs. Councilman George Williams Jr. did not vote because he was excused from the meeting.