DoD Officials on Plans for Base Encroachment Prevention

When you build it, they do come, whether it's a baseball diamond or a military base. And too much development around bases can be a problem. They're protecting Beaufort's bases in a way that has Washington's attention.

Department of Defense officials have been meeting with local community and military leaders about how they've managed to keep Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort free from too much development so they can use it as a model in other parts of the country.

And while they were here, DoD officials took time out to talk with us about their plans.

After talking with local community and military leaders over the past couple of days, they say Beaufort has something a lot of military communities don't. "The thing that strikes me the most is the real partnership that exists between the Marine Corps and the county," said the department's Jan Larkin. "That's exciting to me."

In fact, it's that partnership that brought defense officials to Beaufort. They're looking at developing a pilot program to prevent encroachment or overdevelopment around military bases throughout the country.

"The most important things we do in the military is test our weapons and train our troops," said Larkin. "And if we lose the ability to do that, we'll lose the ability to be the best-trained military in the world and we have to have space to do that."

That's why they're here learning more about Beaufort County's partnership with the Department of the Navy. It's the only partnership of its kind that protects land around a base. "I think what we've seen here in Beaufort certainly would be a good base to start a pilot program," said Larkin. "Or how to work with developers, how you make sure everyone works together."

And local military officials say this kind of attention can only be positive for the future of the air station. "We said all along the Department of Defense wants to do business where they're wanted and where it's easy to do business and Beaufort is that place," said John Payne, chairman of Beaufort's Military Enhancement Committee.

Department of Defense officials tell us they're just in the beginning stages of this pilot program, but Beaufort could certainly be the model they emulate throughout the country.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com