Federal shutdown could delay crucial Wright-Patt acquisition project, Turner warns

Dayton’s congressman reintroduces his “It’s About Time” Act.

An increasingly likely federal government shutdown may delay progress toward new Wright-Patterson Air Force Base offices for acquisition employees, warned U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

If design and engineering work on a new complex housing the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at the base is delayed, that could imperil eventual funding for construction.

Construction can’t happen unless design work has reached a certain point.

“These projects of construction are both expansion and upgrading our existing facilities so that people can appropriately do their jobs,” Turner said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News. “We have to invest in Wright-Patt for its future, which include its current operations. Disruptions in funding can disrupt those plans.”

“It’s looking more and more likely that a shutdown will occur,” he added.

The most recent version of the federal defense budget included $9.9 million for design of an “Acquisition Management Complex” at Wright-Patterson, setting the stage for an expected investment of more than $200 million into the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC).

Turner’s office made a distinction between plans for a new acquisition complex and new child development centers at Wright-Patterson. Money for construction of the latter has been appropriated.

But with a shutdown, there’s also the question of furloughed federal employees and stalled defense contracts. With Wright-Patterson as Ohio’s largest employer in one location, that’s something Dayton businesses hope to avoid.

Nevertheless, government funding set to expire Sept. 30.

The process won’t be pretty. “Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough,” the U.S. Office of Personnel Management warns on its web site.

As yet another shutdown looms, Turner and an ally are reintroducing a bill to change the government funding deadline from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1.

Turner, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced the bill with a New York Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Today, the federal government starts its fiscal year Oct. 1. A move to the calendar year would boost efficiency and better align with private industry, Turner believes.

Since the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 changed the funding deadline to Oct. 1, Congress has passed required appropriations measures on schedule just four times — most recently in 1997.

“With the threat of a government shutdown looming once again, it is time for Congress to modify the funding schedule that repeatedly puts the operations of government in jeopardy,” Turner said in a statement. “The government funding deadline of Oct. 1 continues to put our military readiness and other vital services at risk as Congress consistently struggles to pass spending bills by the current deadline.

“We cannot allow the critical operations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to be threatened by senseless shutdowns,” he added. “Changing the fiscal calendar to start on Jan. 1 would mitigate the unrealistic time constraints on Congress and allow government services to continue uninterrupted.”

“Changing the start of the fiscal year to the beginning of the calendar year will diminish the risk of government shutdowns by ensuring Congress has the time it needs to evaluate the budget proposal submitted by the president and craft spending bills,” Nadler said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned Congress last year that the habit of “continuing resolution” spending harms Pentagon priorities — and in particular, harms areas of spending crucial to Wright-Patt, the heart of much of the Air Force’s logistics and procurement work.

Continuing resolutions are temporary spending measures that let federal government funding continue, while final full-year budgets are being shaped, a process that usually takes months and is typically well delayed.

Turner told this newspaper he opposes any shutdown.

“We’re not even in a deadlock in negotiations with the (Biden) administration,” he said. “The House is just unable to come to an agreement on terms to get the bill out.”

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