Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Tuesday. Portman was briefed by base leaders on the status of an expansion of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patt and the relocation of an F-35 fighter jet program from Virginia to the Base. Each project is on schedule, Portman said.

F-35 program has opened office at Wright-Patterson

Portman visited the base to get an update on the construction of an expansion for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patt and the move of an F-35 fighter jet sustainment program to the base from Virginia. Portman’s visit came just days after the base topped 30,000 employees for the first time in 30 years.

“It’s really exciting,” Portman said. “What’s going on at the base today is fantastic for our military and our readiness, but also for the Miami Valley.”

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NASIC is in the midst of a massive $182-million building expansion project that is one of the largest in Wright-Patt’s history. The intelligence agency analyzes adversaries’ air, space and cyber threats, such as ballistic missile capabilities, and provides findings to the nation’s political and military leaders.

As national decision makers have demanded more intelligence, NASIC’s workforce increased by about 1,500 employees, or 100 a year between 2000 to 2015, according to the agency. NASIC’s expansion will bring employees in six different locations into one facility and will add 900 seats to house intelligence analysts and engineers and add labs.

NASIC received an initial $61 million for the expansion after president Donald Trump signed 2018’s $716-billion defense bill a little over a year ago. It was the first of three installments that will fund NASIC’s expanded facility.

Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget requested the full $120.9 million remaining and the U.S. House of Representatives authorized that amount in its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The U.S. Senate version of the bill only authorized $74 million, according to Portman’s office.

Despite the difference, Portman said he is confident the remainder of the funding will be approved in conference committee where members of Congress will reconcile their bills.

“I think we’ll get the rest of it…my hope is that by the end of September, which is the end of the fiscal year, we’ll have a positive answer,” Portman said.

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Along with NASIC’s expansion, Portman also met with Air Force leaders overseeing the relocation of a program that manages sustainment of F-35 fighter jets. The program will not be finished moving and ready to go until the spring of 2022, a base spokesman previously told the Dayton Daily News.

The move could bring 400 jobs to the base, Portman, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, announced last year.

The program has already opened an office at Wright-Patt and renovation work has already begun on the location its employees will move into, Portman said.

Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in May signed off on the decision that Wright-Patt would become the new home to the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator Organization at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. HPSI supports a global fleet of more than 340 aircraft and when it moves to its new location at Wright-Patt it will be led by the Air Force with a workforce from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, international partners and industry.

The F-35 HPSI’s primary role is to integrate support across the supply chain, maintenance, engineering, logistics, information technology and training disciplines. It will deliver support for fielded F-35s while preparing for future force expansion.

The value of Wright-Patt hosting the program amounts to “hundreds of billions of dollars” over the next several years, Loren Thompson senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute said in May.

Jeff Hoagland, CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, praised Portman for his visit to the base Tuesday. It’s important, Hoagland said, for leaders in Congress to check in on the progress being made at Wright-Patt.

“The F-35 program coming to Dayton is a huge win, for not just Dayton, but for Ohio,” Hoagland said. “Senator Portman has been a huge advocate of the F-35 program along with the rest of our congressional delegation.”

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