South Carolina lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress again that they say would protect Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in Port Royal from being closed using federal dollars.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R- Charleston, whose 1st District includes Beaufort County, said the Parris Island Protection Act, if passed, would prohibit the use of federal funds to close Parris Island — or to plan its closure.
The base, an economic powerhouse and source of pride in Northern Beaufort County, trains 20,000 recruits a year and has trained more than 1 million Marines since 1891.
South Carolina representatives co-sponsored similar legislation in 2021.
The legislation is in response to reports in 2020 that the military was considering shutting down the base to meet gender integration requirements included in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which startled Port Royal and Beaufort local officials.
Rising sea levels also have raised questions about the future of the base, although Marine Corps officials have said steps are being taken to address that threat.
Mace made keeping Parris Island open a campaign issue when she ran for reelection last fall.
“I’m sure y’all are aware, there is a fight here in Congress and at the Pentagon to move or consolidate operations,” Mace wrote in an opinion piece she penned during the campaign. “I saw this last year when a Senator from the West Coast tried to add language in the NDAA that would place unfair and burdensome gender integration deadlines on Marine recruit depots — language that would have impacted only Parris Island it turns out —and not the California-based San Diego [recruit] depot. I, along with our South Carolina Senators, fought to have this successfully removed from the final version.”
Also supporting the 2023 bill are South Carolina Republican congressmen Joe Wilson of Springdale, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee’ Ralph Norman of Rock Hill; William Timmons of Greenville, and Russell Fry of Surfside Beach.
Any proposal to close Parris Island would not only be detrimental to South Carolina economically, Wilson said, but also to the United States Marine Corps and military readiness.
Parris Island has a $601.5 million economic impact on Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties, according to data compiled in a 2017 report prepared for the South Carolina Military Base Task Force.
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