The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce's military council is under the gun to make its bid for the jobs of the U.S. Africa Command. The chamber is going to local governments and businesses for help.

Six county or municipal councils so far have been asked for $5,000 donations to pay for a consultant. Three of them -- the Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester county councils -- have committed the money.

The council also has approached Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant for help, as well as members of the local Defense Contractors Association and the chamber's business members.

The command headquarters, which has 1,300 employees and a $310 million budget, is responsible for military relations in 54 African countries. About half of those jobs are civilian.

The council has six months to meet a deadline for applying to the Department of Defense to locate the command in the Lowcountry. The decision on relocating is expected in 2012.

The jobs could be a big push against the high unemployment continuing to plague economic recovery in the Lowcountry and the rest of the state. The military, with more than 20,000 jobs locally, is the largest employer in the region.

"We don't have the expertise at the chamber to crunch the numbers we need to crunch" to make a successful bid, said Mary Graham, the chamber's senior vice president for public policy and regional advancement. The deadline is so tight, the chamber is taking proposals from consulting firms while it looks for money to pay one.

"We don't have time to wait. We have to do everything simultaneously," she said.

The military is considering moving the command stateside from its base in Germany. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made an opening pitch for the Lowcountry in the spring during an appearance by Gen. Carter F. Ham before the Senate Armed Services Committee, after learning Ham had been ordered to assess places to relocate.

Ham is the U.S. Africa commander. Graham is a member of the committee.

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