Groups collaborate to keep Wright-Patterson strong
DAYTON, Ohio — The Dayton Development Coalition will push to create a regional collaborative to broaden ties and expand community partnerships with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as the base prepares to shed hundreds of jobs.
The Dayton Region Military Collaborative will target shared infrastructure, health care, cyber, aerospace and workforce issues with Wright-Patterson to start, according to Maurice “Mo” McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of defense and aerospace.
McDonald joined coalition, academic and retired military officials Monday at Sinclair Community College at a Wright-Patt 2020 forum, a federal job retention strategy focused on Wright-Patterson and Springfield Air National Guard Base.
Retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles, former commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson, and Wright State University President David R. Hopkins are the co-chairmen of the group.
A budget-conscious Air Force asked for the collaborative to tie in with Wright-Patterson’s community partnership initiative to counter spending reductions, according to McDonald.
“Budget is always a concern, and honestly the partnership activity is focused on how you work together when you have limited resources,” he said.
The collaborative is the latest effort for the Dayton Development Coalition, also tasked by the state to explore ways to protect military and federal installations across Ohio from a possible future round of shutdowns, and job and program cuts under automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.
A new statewide panel — the Federal Military Jobs Commission — will create a strategy by April 2015 to retain and create federal and private-sector jobs in Ohio, said state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield. The nine-member commission expects to name appointees to the panel by September.
The Defense Department has 66,000 jobs in Ohio with a $4 billion payroll, according to Greg Wayt, chief operating officer at Beavercreek-based CBD Advisors, which was hired by the Coalition to work on statewide analysis.
Wayt, a retired Ohio Army National Guard major general, noted the Air Force has said it has 24 percent excess capacity, or nearly one out of every four installations.
Wayt and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul J. Sullivan, a CBD Advisors senior consultant, examined the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, to determine how evaluators assessed military value to reach decisions to close bases and move units and missions. The four main criteria reviewed the installation’s mission capabilities and readiness; availability and condition of land; ability to accommodate and surge forces and support operations; and the cost of operations.
After the 2005 BRAC round, Wright-Patterson gained the 711th Human Performance Wing and about 1,200 jobs.
Congress has in recent years consistently said no to the return of BRAC, Lyles said, but military bases could face a “death by a thousand cuts” with the downsizing of the Defense Department.
The Air Force Materiel Command will eliminate about 370 positions at Wright-Patterson before Oct. 1 because the Defense Department ordered a 20 percent reduction in headquarters staffs, for example. Even so, Lyles said future Air Force investment will focus on science and technology, which could bode well for Wright-Patterson.
Ohio ranks seventh in the nation in public and private research spending, but lags in commercialization of technology, Hopkins said.
“That must and can be the crown jewel of our region,” the WSU president said.
The region has made progress to become a national center of aeronautics, but work remains, he added.
Lyles cautioned that the community should not put too much stock in a recent Air Force Times analysis that ranked Wright-Patterson tied for first as the best place to be stationed stateside based on topics such as housing affordability, unemployment and commute times. When it comes to a BRAC round, the military will look at the mission first, the retired four-star general said.
Michael Gessel, Dayton Development vice president of federal programs in Washington, predicted the reluctance of Congress to say no to BRAC will end in 2017 or 2019, but with much higher requirements than previous rounds to meet cost savings.
Many past base closures focused on mission requirements more than saving money, he said.
Gessel also warned if the budget sequester returns, as scheduled, in fiscal year 2016, “we will have a very, very unpredictable future for the Defense Department and for Wright-Patterson.”
The Coalition struck out on an attempt to bring the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to Wright-Patterson — the Air Force decided to keep the office and about 150 jobs in Virginia — but has made the acquisition of the new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and its 350 jobs a priority, he said.