Rep. Joe Wilson on Thursday began his effort to get more financial support for South Carolina’s Fort Jackson and the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site.
He has a long journey ahead.
Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, testified before the House Budget Committee, where he got no commitments. The panel is just starting a budget process expected to last most of the year. Thursday was a day for congressional lawmakers to give the committee their wish lists.
The harder work will start later this month, after President Donald Trump submits a budget plan. South Carolina will have an insider pushing the blueprint, former Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a congressman from the state before becoming Trump’s budget director. Wilson himself has some clout; he’s chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee.
His pitch Thursday involved boosting Fort Jackson, the Army’s main basic training center. It provides half of the Army’s basic training personnel, according to its official website
“At a time when our nation faces critical threats around the world, from ISIL to North Korea and Iran, the mission at Fort Jackson has never been more vital to achieving peace through strength,” Wilson said.
The Savannah River Site is responsible for green energy development, nuclear technology research, storage, monitoring, waste remediation and cleanup, according to the site’s website.
Wilson noted that the site is home to the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX, which he called “a critical component of our national security and environmental cleanup mission.”
It’s now about 70 percent complete. When it’s done, he said, the MOX facility “will be able to take weapons-grade plutonium and reprocess it into a green fuel — a more secure and sustainable option than potentially placing South Carolina as a plutonium dumping ground.”
Wilson offered no specifics on how he would spend additional funds. He argued the facilities are national assets unique to his state that benefit all U.S. citizens.
“These unique missions contribute to our state and nation in countless, tangible ways,” Wilson said. “Each of these installations provides unique services to our country and requires our support.”
Leacy Burke, Wilson’s communications director, said the congressman was not expecting any commitments anytime soon.
Trump has proposed a huge increase in defense spending. The plan faces several huge hurdles, notably that the president would cut popular domestic programs, such as those funding education and environmental protection, to pay for it.
The House Budget Committee has 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Even if budget-writers agree on a much higher number for military spending, there are other challenges. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said each request for additional funding had to be carefully assessed, prioritized and ultimately decided by the military.
“I think that the assessment has to be made about what serves our national security,” Blumenthal said. But he warned that the additional money, which has no assurance of being approved, is “far from a massive major buildup.”
Donovan Harrell: @dono_harrell