Lawmakers make early pitches for hosting Africa Command in home states

A pair of lawmakers took time during a Tuesday hearing with Pentagon officials to argue that U.S. Africa Command’s Headquarters should be relocated to their home states — even though a Pentagon study on moving it has yet to begin. 

The dueling sales pitches were the most memorable moment of a House Armed Services Committee hearing that aides had said would feature back-and-forth between members on the Libyan military intervention.

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First up was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who enthusiastically told Africa Command chief Gen. Carter Ham that Charleston, S.C., would be a natural home for the still-young military organization.

Wilson ticked off a list of military-specific organizations and facilities in the coastal city that already directly support the command and continent.

He also said the Charleston area and many parts of Africa share similar topography and a "shared culture."

Several members could be seen smirking or chuckling as Wilson delivered his sales pitch.

Moments later, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), gave a similar pitch for Atlanta.

Johnson called the city's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport a hub for global transportation. He also plugged what he views are Atlanta's virtues.

If Pentagon officials do not select Atlanta, Johnson said he would suggest "somewhere else in Georgia."

Any time a major military facility such as a regional command organization's headquarters comes to an area, it provides jobs and an economic boost.

Such an arrangement would not be unprecedented. U.S. Central Command, for instance, is headquartered in Tampa, Fla.

Ham told the panel that he has yet to begin a study on whether it would be wise to relocate the command's current headquarters from Germany, and if so, to where.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered that study. Ham said Gates wants it started from "a clean sheet of paper."

When the George W. Bush administration established Africa Command, it opted against putting the headquarters on African soil amid worries from leaders there that Washington was interested in putting combat troops on the continent.

The study on possibly moving the headquarters has long been planned.