DAYTON, Ohio — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has the capacity to welcome new organizations and jobs should a new round of military base closures happen in the next few years, the base commander said Tuesday.
In fact, two flying units will “bed down” with the base this summer, said Col. Cassie Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, an organization which acts as landlord of the base, which with more than 29,000 employees is Ohio’s largest single-site employer.
“We have two flying organizations joining us this summer as they work on their runway,” Barlow said at a panel discussion hosted by the the NAIOP (National Association for Industrial and Office Parks) Dayton chapter at Pentagon Centre. “They’ll come bed down with us for part of the summer.”
She didn’t identify which organizations would come to the base. A base spokesman said he would gather information about the plans.
Barlow also reminded listeners that the base benefited in the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round with the relocation of six missions and about 1,200 jobs from five U.S. locations.
The base performs regular analysis of its capacity, and it has room for future moves, she said. She said military units “continually call us and say, ‘Hey, do you have space?’ Our answer is ‘Yes.’”
“We have lots of capacity at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” she said.
Joe Zeis, chief strategic officer and executive vice president with the Dayton Development Coalition, expects a new BRAC round, perhaps in 2015-2017. Wright-Patterson did well in the 2005 BRAC, which helps position it for future moves, he said.
“I think the region is teed up extremely well as a receptor base, rather than as a giver base,” Zeis said. “Take a look at Wright-Patterson. Follow the trail of consolidations that have occurred since BRAC 2005.”
The coalition has hired three contractors to help take advantage of future BRAC rounds, said Jeff Hoagland, coalition chief executive.
“In 2005, we were more in a reactive mode,” Hoagland said. “The BRAC announcements came out, and then we reacted.”
This time, he said: “We’re in a proactive mode.”
Dennis Andersh, SAIC Dayton region executive, said the company moved offices to the Dayton area because of the 2005 BRAC. He said much also depends on a Federal Aviation Administration decision on possibly locating a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) test site in the region.
“There are a lot of new companies interested in moving to Dayton and opening offices here,” Andersh said.
Speakers also addressed the impact of automatic federal budget cuts. Called “sequestration,” the cuts amount to a 20 percent cut — and far higher in some cases, up to 75 percent — for the base and affected employees, Barlow said.
“‘Devastating’ is the word,” she said.
Andersh said SAIC “saw this coming” for some time. The company has pulled back on overhead spending, travel and local hiring, he said. “It’s a pretty significant impact,” he said.
In his own remarks, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said defense represents less than 18 percent of overall federal spending, yet is bearing 50 percent of the sequestration burden.
“It is going to be devastating,” Turner said. “And the mechanism by which it was put together in its indiscriminate effect will have a devastating effect on our national security and our spending.”