Base review strategy developing

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is “an enduring base” and “a crown jewel” that could score gains bigger than the 1,200 jobs and $330 million in new construction that the last round of base closures brought. But another round brings risks, too, Dayton Development Coalition leaders said.

Coalition leaders outlined a Base Realignment and Closure Commission strategy in a forum last week at Sinclair Community College. The strategy will come into play should Congress authorize military base closures and mission realignment rounds in 2015 and 2017.

States and communities across the country have geared up to both protect and gain jobs and fight for bases across the country in a high-stakes competition.

“Arguably, there is nothing more important than this issue,” said Steven Johnson, Sinclair Community College president told attendees. “It’s absolutely the core and foundation of our economy.”

Based on past BRAC rounds, coalition leaders said Springfield Air National Guard Base, the Air Force Institute of Technology, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Business and Enterprise Directorate and Air Force Material Command logistics and operations staff could be at risk for reductions or closure.

“Those are the places we’re looking to defend,” said Joe Zeis, coalition executive vice president and chief strategic officer.

Maurice McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of military affairs, said the Springfield base was put on the coalition’s potential at-risk list because a prior BRAC round targeted the base for closure.

“We don’t want to take anything for granted,” he said. “We want to make sure we are preparing for BRAC no matter how a unit may be perceived as being strong or may be at risk.” Michael Gessel, coalition vice president of federal programs, noted that the 1993 BRAC round ordered the closure of the Springfield base. But after two years of intense effort, which he credited largely to former U.S. Rep. David Hobson, reversed that decision in the 1995 BRAC round.

Still, McDonald said the Springfield Air Guard base remains in a strong position to withstand closure in the future because of the missions picked up with the last BRAC round in 2005. He noted the Predator drone and intelligence missions, and links to Wright-Patterson organizations, such as the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory, as pluses that will help its case.

“We think that’s a significant benefit that they are tied to some active-duty organizations at Wright-Patterson,” he said.

Other Wright-Patterson installations and missions could be a magnet for growth, Zeis said. Among them: The National Air and Space Intelligence Center; the base’s strategic runway with space to accommodate new squadrons; Air Force Research Laboratory activities and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center could be a draw to expand the industrial base.

Congress did not act on a Department of Defense request last year for BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015, but the Pentagon is expected to ask for rounds in 2015 and 2017 as defense spending declines and the size of forces shrink.

Community involvement to protect federal installations “makes the difference in the BRAC process,” said McDonald.

Once the Pentagon has made the recommendations it’s “extremely difficult and requires a long-term effort” to reverse the outcome, Gessel said.

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