One of Sumter County's two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives visited the U.S. Army Central headquarters on Friday for the first time since taking office in June.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents South Carolina's 5th District, which encompasses Shaw Air Force Base where the headquarters (USARCENT) is located, met with USARCENT Commander Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett and other staff to discuss issues affecting soldiers who live in the district, which also includes Camden and much of the city of Sumter.
Norman, his district director, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David O'Neal, who served in the USARCENT communications section as an active duty U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and 5th District Liaison Freddie Gault learned about issues as far-ranging as ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz, the value of forward positioned stock and force packages and local topics including schools and jobs for ARCENT families, according to a news release from Col. Angela Funaro of USARCENT Public Affairs.
Funaro wrote that Norman, who is a member of the House Small Business Committee and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology - which holds jurisdiction over federal research and development unrelated to national defense - asked about the challenges facing the command staff, specifically mentioning that he was told maintenance was a "big concern" last time he visited the U.S. Air Force at Shaw.
Like many units across the Department of Defense, Funaro wrote, resourcing continues to be the biggest challenge that plagues the command.
"Continuing resolutions help ensure funding, but the impact of not having a predictable budget with which to plan is that we have to prioritize which units' equipment requirements are going to be fulfilled and maintained to deployment standards before they are moved into theater," Garrett said in the release.
Norman "expressed surprise at the size and dynamic nature of the theater where USARCENT has distributed forces. The comment has forces arrayed across more than 15 of the 20 countries in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility," Funaro wrote. "USARCENT's forward posture and enduring presence help ensure homeland defense and protect U.S. interests."
"Everybody in Congress ought to come here," Norman said, "to see this to understand."
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