During the last base realignment and closure activity, I headed the Military Enhancement Committee responsible for seeing that we kept our three military bases in Beaufort.
We have a small, vocal group of local property owners who want the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter based elsewhere. These people claim to support Alternative 3, but their complaints are primarily with the airplane, which is the same for all alternatives.
When the current F-18s go out of service over the next 10 years, they will be replaced with F-35s. That is the only fighter all three services plan to buy. The bottom line is that if we don't have F-35s, we don't have an air station, and that would be devastating.
Second, with the need to reduce federal deficits, another base realignment and closure is only a matter of time. Beaufort needs to keep its best foot forward and be the most appealing place for the Department of Defense to do business, or the department will find another place that wants it more.
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There also is a small group that feels that turning the county into a purely "retirement" community would eliminate the need for our three bases and the jobs they create. Keep in mind that the average home brings in 86 cents in tax revenue for every dollar it costs in services to local government. The average industry or business brings in $4 to $6 for every dollar spent on services.
We need our bases. Please support them.
John PayneSt. Helena Island