Defense bill earmarks could help South Carolina

Inside the $533 billion Defense Department appropriation bill wending its way through Congress is $200 million earmarked for projects and businesses in South Carolina.

While about half of the spending is targeted for construction and weapons projects, the rest is going to research and development work that could make a difference in saving troops' lives.

In addition, money for the R&D projects would help boost the state's fledging defense industry and bolster the standing of S.C. military bases with the Pentagon and Congress, supporters say.

"Anytime we can get defense work done in South Carolina, it clearly has a positive impact on our economy," said George Patrick, executive coordinator of the S.C. Military Base Task Force. The panel was formed by the state to assist communities in supporting their local bases.

Military spending in South Carolina totals about $6 billion a year, including pensions and benefits for retirees, according to Pentagon figures.

Yet, major defense contractors such as Boeing and General Dynamics don't have factories in the Palmetto State.

Focusing efforts on smaller companies, though, could pay off.

"Quite frankly a myriad of smaller defense contractors do business with the big boys," said Patrick, a retired S.C. Air National Guard major general and F-16 fighter pilot.

Many of the earmarks sponsored by S.C. congressmen are aimed at the development of cutting-edge technology designed to protect troops and benefit civilians. Some examples:

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