Local and state leaders used a visit Thursday by staffers from several South Carolina congressional offices to again sound a warning about looming budget cuts they say will devastate the nation's defense and Beaufort County's three military bases.
Staff members from the Washington, D.C., offices of Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, and Reps. Tim Scott, James Clyburn, Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney toured the bases as part of a visit organized by local officials and the S.C. Military Base Task Force. All but Clyburn are Republicans.
The staffers, who declined interviews, had visited bases in the Midlands and the Charleston area, too, officials said.
Col. John Payne, chairman of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee, said his group wants to make congressional staffers familiar with the local installations before possible base closures "so that when these issues come up, they know what all of our capabilities are ... and know what we do down here."
Budget sequestration in January would trigger more than $1 trillion in mandatory cuts from the Pentagon's budget.
"I am really concerned about how these cuts will affect our ability to protect our sovereign rights as a nation," said Maj. Gen. William Holland, executive coordinator of the S.C. Military Base Task Force."I can't imagine putting all of that at risk over a budget concern, let alone a political concern. This is a huge national issue that is not getting enough national attention."
More than $600 billion in defense cuts were included in the Budget Control Act as a penalty if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed last year, which it did, to reach consensus on a way to reduce the national debt. The Pentagon already planned to cut more than $450 billion over the next decade, officials said.