COLUMBIA - Proposed federal budget cuts to military spending would hurt the nation's military and its veterans, the national commander of the American Legion told a joint session of the South Carolina General Assembly Tuesday.
Dan Dellinger, the national commander of the veterans support organization, thanked South Carolina lawmakers for recognizing veterans' status on driver's licenses and for lawmakers' general support of the military.
He blasted federal budget cuts proposed by the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Gov. Nikki Haley also recently criticized plans to cut funding for the National Guard, opposed by governors across the country.
"The American Legion believes we must be prepared for any scenario," Dellinger said.
South Carolina's large Army presence is in the crosshairs. While Fort Jackson in Columbia, where more than 45,000 recruits are trained annually, is an obvious target, installations in Charleston and elsewhere may be affected, because Hagel also called for a new round of base-closure reviews in 2017.
The Lowcountry has the strongest military footprint of any area in the state, with more than 50 active commands of all sizes and missions that employ thousands under the Joint Base Charleston heading.
Dellinger said he and others were "very frustrated" with the prospect of cuts, saying that those in the military serve voluntarily under difficult conditions.
Staff reporter Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report. Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837 or on Twitter @Jeremy_Borden.