A committee of Beaufort residents is headed to Washington this week to argue against across-the-board military spending cuts they say would devastate three local military bases.
Local officials and residents are urging federal lawmakers to avoid sequestration -- a roughly $1 trillion cut to federal spending set to go into effect in January -- that would automatically trim the military's budget by $600 billion over 10 years.
"We want (politicians) to understand the effect it is going to have on a small community like Beaufort that is proud of its military and supports its nation," said Col. Jack Snider, vice-chairman of the Beaufort County Military Enhancement Committee and a former F-18 pilot and commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. "We want to make sure they understand that while they're playing politics, they are also dealing with the lives of many people who live in Beaufort County."
Beaufort County Council and local municipalities have approved a resolution opposing sequestration, which "will make deep, unacceptable cuts across the board to our nation's military, impairing our ability to defend our citizens," according to the resolution.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Naval Hospital Beaufort and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort contribute $1.2 billion annually to the county's economy and provide 8,700 military and civilian jobs, according to the resolution.
Military Enhancement Committee members intend to meet with members of South Carolina's congressional delegation, including Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, as well as Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. Additional meetings include a session in the Marine Corps' Commandant's office and with staff of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, both of which are involved in the push against sequestration.
Sequestration was triggered after a "supercommittee" of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress, created by the Budget Control Act, failed last year to settle on budget cuts worth $1.5 trillion over a decade.
The law also specified that if no deal was reached, $1.2 trillion in "sequestration," or automatic across-the-board cuts would begin in 2013.
Military Enhancement Committee chairman Col. John Payne urged residents to write letters against sequestration to their representatives. A round of base closures could follow the cuts, making action all the more crucial, he said.
"Most folks that you talk to can't even pronounce sequestration, much less know what it is, and it's a looming threat," he said. "Our representatives didn't do us any favors by not coming to an agreement (on military spending cuts)."
Committee members intend to emphasize the cost efficiencies of having three bases in one community, Parris Island's capacity to double the current number of recruits trained there and MCAS Beaufort's planned F-35B training center, which would be the only one in the Marine Corps.