2016 Regional advocacy focus of trip to D.C.
Business, government, education and civic leaders will travel to Washington, DC May 17 to provide valuable input on critical issues that affect the CSRA, a region of more than a half million people.
The annual trip, which includes meetings and informal discussions with elected officials and key department heads and decision makers, is a collaborative initiative of four area chambers, including the Aiken Chamber, North Augusta Chamber, Augusta Metro Chamber and Columbia County Chamber. Thirty of the area’s key leaders will be making the trip.
The Aiken contingency will be led by Chamber President/CEO, J. David Jameson. “The CSRA Leadership Trip is a very effective way of informing and educating our legislators on issues important to the vitality of our businesses and our community,” Jameson said.
The contingency will meet with senior leadership at the U.S. Department of Energy to discuss issues relevant to the Savannah River Site (see talking points) and receive a briefing from the White House Communication Office.
Individual meetings will be held with South Carolina Representative Wilson and Senators Graham and Scott, as well as Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue and Representatives Hice and Allen.
“Members of Congress and agency heads find it impressive that our economic region includes two states, but we still find commonality on vital concerns that affect the half million citizens of our region,” said Jameson.
Key DOE talking points
2017 Budget Impacts
Each year when the Administration’s budget comes out, there are usually programs at SRS that are adequately funded but then there are programs that suffer a decrease in funds. The portion of EM’s FY17 budget request that would go to SRS is more than $1.45 billion up over $100 million from last year. This is good news and the “plus up” includes much needed funds for infrastructure work. Not covered in the EM budget, is MOX which the FY17 President’s budget proposes to cut the funding from $340 million for construction in FY16 to only $270 million in FY17, and use that money to terminate the program.
All of the missions and programs at SRS are important. The next step is to continue the education process with our Congressional delegation on the importance of all of SRS missions and see if additional funding can be found. With the current tight budget constraints, this is a challenging proposition. What hurts most is no having a stable, adequate budget that SRS can depend on. Passing of the “good news” in the proposed FY17 budget is unlikely and it appears the government is headed toward another Continuing Resolution (CR) or even a cromnibus which is a combination of a long-term omnibus spending bill and a shorter-term continuing resolution.
For SRS, due to the temporary nature of most CRs, it is difficult to plan operational work beyond the specific time limits of the funding. Work slows down because of the lack of definitive funding and inability to plan toward a specific budget. This year a new CR would benefit MOX by keeping it at the previous construction level but the EM budget would be reduced and the much needed infrastructure funding would be inadequate. Looking into the future, concerns include the expected increases needed to support the pensions of SRS retirees over the next 5-7 years. There is not a separate line item in the budget to cover this expense which will range from $100 million to over $300 million. These funds come out of the operating budgets. Both DOE and our Congressional delegation need to be made aware of this extra cost moving forward and plan adequately
Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative (AMC)
Existing on-site facilities are out dated and physically unattractive and not suited for the new missions proposed by the new 70,000 square foot AMC facility. We are in hopes this new facility will appeal to the younger workforce with higher expectations and more attractive options for a workplace environment. We see this as a “game changer” for the local area with SRNL staffing approaching 100 people. Through third-party financing, AMC will have a private entity provide laboratory and office space, maintain the facility and execute a lease agreement. Such a facility could be catalysis for an innovation campus with private sector and university collaboration in R&D and industrial/technology startups.
Future SRS Workforce
The site’s aging workforce has been a constant concern. According to recent reports, within three years, up to 50 percent of the SRS workforce will be eligible for retirement base upon years of service and age. The average age of an SRS employee is around 54. Nuclear industry jobs require strong skills. Some of these skills are obtainable through local college and university programs or acquired through on-the-job training. As new SRS contracts move forward, how will DOE ensure an adequate, well qualified future workforce at SRS is a question that needs to be answered?
DOE has a moral and legal obligation to expeditiously remove surplus plutonium brought into South Carolina, and ensure that any other fissile material brought into the state has a disposition pathway. DOE, NNSA and the National Academies of Science have previously studied alternative plutonium disposition strategies, and determined that MOX is the best solution. We need to move MOX from a “slow build” mentality to a more aggressive construction mentality to meet DOE obligations. We feel this situation has escalated above the local level and only congress can resolve. Locally we are in a difficult situation. We support MOX but if reality of a shutdown occurs, we expect a seat at the negotiations to discuss expectations for the use of the facility moving forward and replacement alternatives for workforce and economic losses.
SRS Contract Re-Bid and Contract Language Enhancements
Our concerns stem from a desire to accommodate several modifications to contract language that would be beneficial to the local area and can only be considered during contract’s rebid. Such stipulations are not included in either major contract as currently written. We would like to see some allowance for (1) Contractor Community Commitment Plans, (2) the use of DOE facilities – lease or land transfer, (3) the percentage of work which may be self-performed, and (4) actions to counteract workforce attrition through recruitment, training and retention.
Receipt of Foreign Nuclear Materials
We understand and support SRS’s key role in nuclear non-proliferation and in storing the nation’s excess plutonium and other foreign nuclear material. Dozens of tons of plutonium have been shipped from other DOE facilities to SRS for processing. And, other nuclear material of U.S origin is or is planned to come to SRS, like the German highly enriched uranium (HEU).
SRS has facilities, resources, and the skilled workforce required to disposition nuclear materials. These assets are unique to SRS, the DOE Complex and the Nation and are vital to national security; however, the facilities and supporting common infrastructure, much of which is over 60 years old, is in need of reinvestment so that they can continue to safely support the missions. While we support new missions involving nuclear material, that support is predicated on receiving adequate infrastructure funding to carry out this mission and the condition that there is a final disposition path for the resulting waste materials from processing.
Furthermore, we request such an agreement much like a Community Commitment Plan be made to local community for each shipment for being a host of such material. These projects will greatly benefit from SRS’s location in South Carolina and from the workforce and other resources provided by the region. In recognition of these benefits, meaningful actions should be implemented to demonstrate a community commitment to the local region. Such activities should include Regional Educational Outreach Programs; Regional Purchasing Programs; and Regional Economic Development and Community Support. This list is not intended to preclude other constructive community activities.
The Aiken contingency of the CSRA Leadership delegation includes:
- Don Bridges – CNTA
- Dean Campbell – Savannah River Remediation
- Teresa Haas – Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC
- J. David Jameson – Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce
- Dr. Sandra Jordan – University of South Carolina Aiken
- John Klimm – City of Aiken
- Rick McLeod – SRS Community Reuse Organization
- Mayor Rick Osbon – City of Aiken
- Dr. Susan Winsor – Aiken Technical College
- Keith Wood - AECOM
Other participants in the CSRA Leadership delegation are:
- Angi Brock — The Cleveland Group
- Terra Carroll — North Augusta Chamber of Commerce
- Deke Copenhaver — Copenhaver Consulting
- Jim Davis — University Health Care System
- Brandon Haddock — Textron Specialized Vehicles
- Nancy Hannan — Augusta University Health
- Richard Henderson — Jani-King of Augusta
- Marcella Knox — SRP Federal Credit Union
- Russ Krueger — Ocozzio
- Frank Lindley — Gold Cross EMS
- Tim McGill — Georgia Power
- Eric McIntyre — Georgia Power
- Terri Mobley — Augusta University Health
- Sue Parr — Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce
- Tammy Shepherd — Columbia County Chamber of Commerce
- Stan Shepherd — AT&T
- Kevin Toole — Southern Bank & Trust
- Rhonda True — Honey Baked Ham
- Rian True — Carolina Covertech
- Thom Tuckey — CSRA Alliance
Barry White — Augusta Conventions and Visitors Bureau