Spending to save military bases an investment in our future

South Carolina has shown it can compete for new industry and new jobs, but it must be ready now to fight for jobs it already has at its military bases.

Given the annual economic impact of our bases -- estimated at $13 billion statewide, with $1.2 billion here in Beaufort County -- we must be prepared to make our case to decision-makers. That means spending money.

The Defense Department is asking for new rounds of base closures and realignment in 2013 and 2015 in an effort to cut $600 billion from its budget over the next decade. It already has announced $487 billion in cuts.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee met last week to discuss how to protect and promote the county's three bases -- Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort.

Not surprisingly, money was part of the discussion. The group plans to ask Beaufort County for $250,000 and plans to ask municipalities to help, too.

Support should be forthcoming and if the group's efforts are to be effective, the sooner, the better. We're confident communities north and south of the Broad River recognize the economic importance of making the best case possible for keeping our military bases open or preventing their missions from being severely curtailed.

The local group is smart to get is financial affairs in order. State-level efforts already are behind. The S.C. Military Base Task Force has received no funding from the General Assembly and has been without an executive director for more than a year.

During the 2005 closure cycle, the task force received up to $500,000 a year, The (Columbia) State newspaper reports. The money was used to pay the executive director and help the four military communities in the state -- Columbia, Sumter, Charleston and Beaufort.

Beaufort has maintained its military installations through previous rounds of base closings in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2005. But there's no guarantee we'll escape the next two rounds, and there's no excuse for not doing all we can to ensure our bases stay open.

It's a smart investment in our economic future.