U.S. Rep. John Spratt’s loss in Tuesday’s election could make it more difficult for South Carolina to protect its military bases and land new missions, including new F-35 fighters for Sumter’s Shaw Air Force Base and Beaufort’s Marine Corps Air Station, experts say.
Spratt, defeated by Republican Mick Mulvaney, was the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee and chairman of the House Budget Committee.
With Spratt’s defeat and the departure of three other veteran Republican congressmen, four of South Carolina’s six congressmen will be freshmen when Congress convenes in January. That lack of seniority will weaken the state’s clout in military matters, the experts say.
“The significance of that loss (Spratt) will be felt,” said retired Maj. Gen. Thomas Olsen, executive director of the Sumter Base Defense Committee, a civilian group that helps with issues facing Shaw Air Force Base, which is in Spratt’s district. “But it’s not a death knell. We have two very well-experienced senators and the whip of the Democratic Party. And I think Mulvaney understands his role and he’ll work out fine.”
Studies have shown Shaw, Columbia’s Fort Jackson and Eastover’s McEntire Joint National Guard Base pump $7.1 billion a year into the Midlands economy. Military installations around Charleston add another $4.7 billion a year to the state’s economy. And Beaufort’s three installations add another $1.2 billion a year.
The state was creamed by 1990s base closings, losing the Charleston Navy base and Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. In 2005, however, with the help of the new S.C. Military Base Task Force and an energized congressional delegation, the Midlands did well, adding new missions for Fort Jackson and the Third Army to Shaw, resulting in 2,500 new military and civilian jobs.
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