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Lawmakers reintroduce bill to prevent Marine Corps' Parris Island from closing

By LANA FERGUSON | The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) | Published: January 29, 2021

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — Six South Carolina Republicans co-sponsored a new version of the "Parris Island Protection Act" introduced in Congress on Thursday, months after the Beaufort and Port Royal communities were startled by the news that the U.S. Marine Corps may close the boot camp.

The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds to close or plan the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, which is one of two Marine training depots in the country. The second is in San Diego and also faced rumors of eventual closure.

Among the sponsors of the legislation: U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who represents District 1 where Parris Island is located; U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson who represents District 2 and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee; U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (District 3); U.S. Rep. William Timmons (District 4); U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (District 5); and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice (District 7).

U.S. Rep. Thomas P. Tiffany, of Wisconsin, also co-sponsored the bill.

The same group of officials had proposed a similar bill in October with then-U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, the Democrat who lost to Mace in November.

The legislation was in response to reports that the military agency was considering shutting down the base to meet gender integration requirements included in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, according to a news release from Wilson's office.

Mace heavily lobbied to keep Parris Island open when she was running for her seat last fall.

In the release, she called Parris Island "fundamental to our national defense" and said she would "ensure it remains open to train Marines for generations to come."

Parris Island in Port Royal has trained Marine recruits for more than a century.

Women have been training at Parris Island since 1949, but training platoons weren't gender-integrated until March 2019. The Marine Corps is the final branch of the military to integrate its bases, and it has until 2025 to do so.

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.

Over 6,100 people are employed as a result of Parris Island, according to the chamber of commerce's website.

"All the local officials in Beaufort and Port Royal are actively engaged in what's happening here now and are going to stay on top of it," Port Royal Mayor Joe DeVito said when news of the possible closure broke last fall. "We're ready to join in on this conversation to help them make the decision to keep the base here."

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