BEAUFORT, SC (WSAV) – Congresswoman Nancy Mace said she would make protecting Parris Island a priority while she was running for office. Now in her first month in Washington, she has followed up that promise with legislation.
Mace, along with fellow South Carolina Congressmen Joe Wilson and Ralph Norman, will propose the Parris Island Protection Act on Thursday.
The bill, according to the Congresspeople, would stop Congress from ever shuttering the Marine Corps training base.
“It prohibits the use of allocated funds into shutting down Parris Island even studying the shut down of Parris Island,” explains Rep. Nancy Mace, (R) Charleston, the lead sponsor of the bill. “Before a base is even considered they have to study it and the economic impact the cost of shutting it down and we are prohibiting the use of funds for any of those reasons and yes absolutely we need to do it.”
It includes language that says in part “No Federal funds may be used to close or realign Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.”
“You have male barracks and then down the road, you have female barracks. Nothing the way we are organized right now lends itself to integrated recruit training,” said U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger last September.
That comment in a Military.com interview by the head of the Marine Corps has led to worry around the Lowcountry and the state.
“We have to get to a place on both coasts or at a third location or whatever we end up with, that every recruit male and female…that there are male and female around,” said Berger.
He is talking about mandates in the National Defense Authorization Act which call for both training bases, in San Diego and Parris Island, to be gender-integrated in the next five years.
Neither base has the infrastructure to do that currently. Parris Island has been training female recruits at the base, but they remain segregated by gender, which is why the idea has been floated of creating a third base and closing the current two.
Parris Island has been around since the 1890s and produces 6,000 jobs and $740 million in economic impacts yearly for the state.
“There is no reason financially or from a training product standpoint that Parris Island should ever be at risk,” said Rep. Nancy Mace.
“I promised my constituents my very first act as Congresswoman would be to defend Parris Island. Tomorrow, I’ll make good on that promise,” Mace said. “Since opening over a century ago, Parris Island has served a vital role in the defense of America. Over one million brave marines have trained at the base and served our country in every conflict since World War I. Parris Island has produced some of our nation’s finest military leaders. Every woman that has ever served as a U.S. marine trained at South Carolina’s crowned jewel, Parris Island.”
“Parris Island is not only fundamental to our national defense, but creates 6,000 jobs and $800 million in economic activity while serving as an integral part of our Beaufort community and the Palmetto state,” Mace continued. “The ‘Parris Island Protection Act’ will ensure it remains open and the Lowcountry continues to make the next generation of marines.”
“Parris Island is in the middle of rehabilitating and renovating and tearing down buildings and beginning anew,” said the Representative. “They have their own power plant, they are creating their own energy, they have their own solar farm that they can depend on to get some of their energy. Not only are they innovating the way our installations operate but they are also innovating the way our posts and military bases can save money for the taxpayer.”
A similar bill, also called the Parris Island Protection Act, was proposed and signed by Mace’s predecessor Joe Cunningham, as well as Wilson and Norman back in October. It was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services but never made it to a vote.
U.S. military leaders have said previously that no decision to close either base has been made. But they have acknowledged they’re looking at all options to meet the congressional mandate.