Congressman Joe Wilson, R-S.C.,l is asking citizens to get behind the push for reprogrammed funds to make their way to the Savannah River Site as soon as possible.
Federal sequestration caused a $100 million shortfall in funding for programs at the Department of Energy-owned site. This has caused thousands of employees to be put on 32-hour work schedules and could see hundreds more facing full furloughs starting June 1, if there is not an injection of money by May 22.
Wilson, backing up statements made by S.C. Sen. Tom Young, urged individuals to get in contact with the Office of Management and Budget and let them know that they want the $79 million in reprogrammed funds to be pushed through.
“It has positive impact,” said Wilson. “They will be calling in a positive manner. People will be identifying what they do, as I think it will be enlightening to the people at OMB to see what is being done here for national security.”
Young described that many legislators in South Carolina have shown support for the reprogramming request, and that individuals can help also.
“It’s important that we continue to reach out,” Young told the audience of near 300. “What can you do? I’m about to give you a phone number that I called this morning, and I got a live person.
“Tell them that you want the funds to be reprogrammed. We need you to reach out to our Congressmen, especially Congressman Clyburn. Encourage federal lawmakers to allow the transfer of these funds and limit the impact on our community and continue these missions that are so important.”
In March, DOE made a request for funds to be reassigned from other projects not using them, and give them to SRS to keep work progressing.
The funds have been apportioned during the Fiscal Year 2013 Continuing Resolution, but the process is simply waiting on individuals within OMB to move the process forward.
Once that happens, two Senate and two House committees must sign off on the reprogramming, then the funds can be released to DOE.
“I really believe the prospects are very bright,” Wilson said. “DOE made the request, and I am grateful for that. I see no reason why the reprogramming should not go through, it is in the interest of national security.”
J. David Jameson, President and CEO of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, urged a slightly more aggressive approach when dealing with the Office of Management and Budget.
“We’ve got to light up those phone lines at OMB, it doesn’t take much to make bureaucrats to have a little bit of a meltdown,” he said. “OMB is an arrogant bunch of folks, they need to have some of our friendly Aiken County phone calls to spur them on.”
Jameson added that for every month of the current furloughs $7.5 million is not circulating in the regional economy and that every job at SRS supports 2.3 jobs in the community.
“It’s always said that if Savannah River Site has a cold, the communities around it find themselves with pneumonia,” he said. “And that is exactly what we are facing with these furloughs right now.”
• Mike Gellatly covers the Savannah River Site and Courts for the Aiken Standard. The oversized Scot has 13 years of experience in Aiken County, first coming to the United States for a summer job at Camp Gravatt while attending the University of Stirling in his homeland. He now has two (American) children from a marriage that started at that Episcopal church camp.