Dayton Business Journal, Apr 12, 2017, 5:33pm EDT

 

A new task force led by a local lawmaker will lead Ohio’s strategy to protect its $11 billion defense industry.

Rumblings of a new Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC round, have continued in Washington, D.C.. A bill supporting the move, which would evaluate and consolidate military infrastructure around the country, was introduced and discussed at the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year. It enjoys some military and lawmaker support, but any kind of talk of closing bases leaves communities scrambling to protect their own jobs.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, authorized a Task Force on BRAC and Military Affairs last month, which he said would “collaborate with experts and interested parties to increase our understanding of these topics in order to forge a productive pathway forward.”

State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, chairs the task force and said he’s selecting its other members in the next few weeks. The task force will formulate how the state can go about protecting its assets. For Dayton, a BRAC looms large. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has 27,500 jobs as the largest single-site employer in the state. It also supports nearly 60,000 jobs in the region and has a $4.3 billion economic impact. Its groups spend millions more with local companies.

“It will be a diverse group of people representing the entire state, with legislators and others as well,” Perales said. “We will put them all together and have a unified military installation strategy with the most efficient and most effective means.”

The committee’s first big mission will be to inventory all of the military and department of defense installations in the state. Wright-Patt is the largest, but other federal installations include NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the state’s national guard facilities. The group seeks to understand their mission, resources potential deficiencies and community impact.

“We need to look at the job gains and subtractions, how the facilities interact with local community colleges and K-12 schools,” Perales said. “I expect us to get a more thorough look at our site and be able to come up with a singular strategy related to it. We as a region care greatly and appreciate the value of our military and federal installations,”

The task force will also see to how to fund needed infrastructure projects, as the Ohio Military Facilities Commission has been set up to do. The commission’s model might be tweaked, Perales said, in part because its priority has to focus on military missions and not the larger, non-military impact bases have on their communities. This month it opted to fund $5 million to two National Guard bases but passed over Wright-Patt.

“Many times the things not directly supporting the mission, like an improvement to a runway, things like infrastructure, roads, gates, roofs, buildings and wastewater systems, you don’t see it on the front lines but it is absolutely necessary, that is something that is reflected as well,” Perales said. “This was a good first step and we need to do a little tweaking.”

Locally, the topic of a BRAC has stayed fresh. Last month, for instance, Dayton Development Coalition held a talk led by Retired Gen. Lester Lyles and Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen over what kind of preparations could be made to preserve Dayton’s jobs.

In the talk, they emphasized the work must be done as soon as possible, and that the region should focus on its workforce and how it can fill the jobs in-demand on the base as civilians retire at the base. It also needs to deepen connectionsbetween airmen and the Dayton community.

“We don’t take Wright-Patterson and Springfield Air National Guard Base for granted,” Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the DDC, recently said. “That’s how bad things happen.”