Wilson Testifies Before House Budget Committee in Support of Fort Jackson and Savannah River Site

Mar 6, 2013
Press Release
Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) testified this morning before the House Budget Committee, which is led by Chairman Paul Ryan, requesting that appropriate funding levels be retained in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Savannah River Site in Aiken and Barnwell counties and Fort Jackson in Columbia.  Both of these installations are vital to our national security and provide unique one-of-a-kind resources to our country. Excerpts from his speech are included below.

Fort Jackson:

Wilson stated, “Fort Jackson serves as the Army’s largest initial entry training facility. Between fiscal years 07 to 12 the number of Soldiers who were trained at Fort Jackson ranged from 35,000 recruits to a maximum of 46,000. Due to the sequester, the Army has informed me that $75 million of funding will be cut from Fort Jackson. This facility provides basic training to our men and women who selflessly serve our nation and defend our freedoms, while spreading democracy around the world. These dedicated brave men and women in uniform should not be subjected to budgeting confusion. As you work to draft the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, please do everything in your power to secure the funds necessary to train our men and women at Fort Jackson.” 

Savannah River Site:

Wilson stated, “About an hour southwest of Columbia lies the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. This site is a national security asset, which disposes of weapons grade nuclear materials, conducts cutting edge research, and supports our country’s nuclear weapons missions. Sequestration has had a tremendous impact on the Site, causing over $100 million in funds to be cut and over 2,000 possible furloughs. That being said, there are concerns about cutting funding for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) currently under construction at SRS. This facility, also called MOX for the Mixed Oxide Fuel it will create, is in line to be our country’s means to honor our nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Russia.  In the agreement made in the year 2000, each of our countries agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of excess military grade plutonium. That equates to over 17,000 nuclear bombs being removed from the world. Even more, the Facility will convert the military grade plutonium into commercial nuclear power rods which will power homes and businesses across the United States. The Project is over 60% completed and currently employs 2,300 workers with another 2,000 ancillary jobs associated with the Project. In addition to the hardworking and dedicated employees at the Facility, finishing MOX is imperative for a multitude of national security reasons. Slade Gordon, a member of the 9/11 Commission, stated ‘Every dollar diverted (from the MOX Facility) delays the effort to get rid of plutonium, and every delay provides more time for the material to be stolen.’ If we default on our end of the Agreement, Russia will have no incentive to dispose of their own excess weapons grade plutonium. I share Mr. Gordon’s concerns. It is in our mutual interest for America and Russia to continue working together.

Apart from the future funding of the MOX Project, sequestration has ravaged funding across the board at SRS. The Environmental Management side of the Site alone will lose over $100 million in funds and contractors expect to furlough over 2,000 employees starting April 1st. Please keep in mind, these are completely separate of the aforementioned MOX workers. From H-Canyon to the Tank Farms, environmental cleanup funds have been slashed. Moreover, the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) cannot benefit monetarily from its inventions and does not possess a line item within the Budget, making it heavily reliant upon trickle down funding from other facilities within the DOE Nuclear Complex. A significant decrease in funding to SRNL poses a direct threat to our national security as the Laboratory is tasked with training all FBI forensic agents, is key in developing new military technologies implemented in the war on terror, and directly supports the environmental cleanup mission of legacy defense waste across the country.”

Closing Statement:

Wilson stated, “Your Committee has some extremely tough choices ahead. I fully understand. I simply ask that as you go through the budgetary process, you fully consider the critical national security missions being carried out at both Fort Jackson as well as the Savannah River Site. The individuals at both installations are dedicated to serving their country and putting the national interest of the United States before themselves. Please give them the tools they need to get the job done for nuclear non-proliferation and environmental cleanup while keeping us safe here at home.”