President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he planned to increase defense spending by $54 billion was met with enthusiasm — and a measure of uncertainty — in northern Beaufort County, home to three installations.
“Any discussion of increasing our spending is encouraging both on a local, state and national level,” Jim Wegmann, chairman of the Enhancement Committee and its base representative, said in an email. … Ensuring our is properly sized and that our members are properly trained and equipped should be priority one.”
Northern Beaufort County is home to Corps Air Station Beaufort, Naval Hospital Beaufort and Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. It’s also home to innumerable businesses serving , sailors and the civilian personnel who support them.
Two new Hilton hotels planned for Trask Parkway and Parris Island Gateway are being built primarily in response to the growing F-35 program at the air station. The new rooms would cater to the mechanics and other professionals in town to service the fighter jets, HD Companies land developer David Hornsby said.
Hornsby said the announcement of increased defense spending was encouraging but that there is some uncertainty based on some of Trump’s public comments. In December, the then president-elect criticized Lockheed Martin over F-35 costs and, on Twitter, asked Boeing to “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet.”
Trump announced in January that Lockheed Martin had cut $600 million from its next batch of 90 F-35s.
“I think that would be our question — what’s going to happen?” Hornsby said. “… We’re counting on that base to build up. I’m sure it will continue.”
Any talk of spending increases must first address sequestration — defense spending caps enacted by the federal Budget Control Act in 2011, Wegmann noted.
“It is never an easy question to anticipate force structure sizing, training and equipment requirements but I believe sequestration has affected all of them,” Wegmann said. “Unfortunately, the spending caps of sequestration still exist, so any real discussion of increasing spending should also entail discussions of ending sequestration.”
Billy Gavigan, president of Gavigan Homes and a for 12 years, said more money in the budget might not be felt locally for years. He noted the $54 billion might sound hefty but that bases were already squeezed by a federal civilian hiring freeze and that there have been issues with aging aircraft.
The local economy will benefit if budget increases mean more and sailors coming to the area and spending money, Gavigan said. He pointed to plans for the F-35 program and recruit graduations as already a huge boon for the area.
His company has built communities like Mint Farm and the newly developed Azalea Square in Port Royal, where Gavigan said demand is high.
The new administration’s plans for spending and tax reform have resonated well among area businesses, Gavigan said.
“There’s a strong feeling of a great opportunity that I’ve not felt in a while,” Gavigan said. “… There’s just a positive vibe.”
Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen
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