Air Force commission to tour Wright-Patt, Springfield Guard bases

Group will make recommendations on personnel and equipment.

A national commission charged with recommending how the Air Force should distribute its personnel and equipment between active-duty and reserve branches will tour Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield Air National Guard Base next week.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, chairman of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, briefed civic leaders Wednesday inside the Pentagon Tower in Beavercreek on the commission’s role. Commission members will visit Wright-Patterson and Springfield Air National Guard Base on Monday.

On Tuesday, the group will tour Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus and Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, and take testimony at a public hearing in Columbus. Members will visit 13 sites across the nation, from Massachusetts to Hawaii. A final report is due to President Barack Obama and Congress by Feb. 1.

The commission’s trip to four different bases in Ohio is the most of any state.

“It was a good opportunity to see the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and the active component all in a single trip,” McCarthy said in an interview Wednesday.

Commissioners will review how best to balance forces and personnel among the three aviation service branches, evaluate costs and capacity, operations tempo and the effectiveness of the force, among other points.

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs in Washington, D.C., said the commission’s final recommendations may be too broad to have specific and immediate impact on either Wright-Patterson or Springfield but if the changes were enacted would likely eventually impact both.

“I believe that the commission will take a very close look at the issues and dive as deeply as the commission can in the short time it has,” Gessel said.

Congress appointed eight members to the commission after lawmakers balked at an Air Force proposal to cut Air National Guard and Reserve forces more heavily than active-duty forces last year. The plan would have eliminated the positions of 3,900 active duty airmen, 5,100 Air National Guard troops, and 900 Air Force reservists. The Air National Guard also would have borne the brunt of aircraft reductions with more than 500 cut out of the “total force” fleet within five years.

McCarthy said the commission is not on a mission similar to the base realignment and closure process, and he did not expect the panel in a final report would offer specific figures on the number of troops, aircraft, units or bases to cut as the Air Force’s budget declines.

“This is not a BRAC,” he said. “It is not designed to come out and evaluate a base or anything like that.”

Commission members will meet with airmen during roundtable discussions on the bases, McCarthy said. “We go to the bases more to see the people than the facilities,” he said.

The panel has set a public hearing to gathering testimony from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 30 in the North Hearing Room on the second floor of the Senate in Columbus.