DAYTON, Ohio — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine may bolster the case for stronger military spending — benefiting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other U.S. military facilities, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said Friday.
Turner briefed state legislators on federal issues while they spoke with him about state issues at a meeting at Wright State University. The Dayton Republican told them U.S. military leaders are still grappling with the impact of the past $1.2 trillion in budget sequestration cuts and are eyeing long-term feared future cuts, controlling spending so that they’re placed on a more gentle “glide path,” said Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.
Turner also said a future round of Base Realignment and Closure process, or BRAC, could prove challenging for the Dayton region. While Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — the region’s and the state’s largest single-site employer, with well over 20,000 employees — has benefited from previous rounds that saw intra-Air Force competition, future rounds may pit military branches against each other, with the Air Force competing against the Army to keep facilities open, for example.
But unrest in Europe may at least slow plans to cut defense spending, Turner said.
“The benefit of Putin’s new aggressiveness is that he might solve this issue for us,” he said.
Russia in recent weeks has orchestrated the forced annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, while today there is war between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainians in the Eastern part of that nation.
On Friday, Ukraine’s president said “many” pro-Russian rebels were killed and wounded in a battle in Slovyansk, and Russia called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, citing what it called a “serious escalation of violence” in the country.
Meanwhile, global rivals are modernizing their armed forces, Turner contends. Maintaining a fundamental level of military strength is “absolutely essential when we look at what the Russians are doing, what the Chinese are doing,” he said.
“People say you don’t use your weapons (which you already have),” the congressman said. “Well, we use them every day. It’s called ‘deterrence.’ You see what’s coming out of Russia.”
While sequestration has been relieved short-term, it hasn’t been addressed in the “out years,” Turner said. He cautioned that the Department of Defense can’t “budget itself into a cliff.”
Turner acknowledged that new problems have been discovered with software controlling the F-35 fighter’s displays and pilot helmets. The developing jet has seen a number of setbacks due to software issues.
“Do we have all our eggs in that (F-35) basket,” asked State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood. “Or do we have a next-generation jet?”
Turner said the next-generation step would likely be a bomber, not a fighter.
On other issues, Turner said he has heard concern about the number of babies born in the Dayton area addicted to heroin.
He said area hospitals are planning an “intervention” program for addicted women who are pregnant or who may be. Details for the program were scarce Friday, but Turner’s staff said invitations may soon be sent for the program’s inaugural event.
The problem is firmly in the suburbs. Turner said officials at Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek told him that an “unbelievable” number of babies are born addicted.
The program would aim at “making sure we get women who are pregnant into treatment early so that we can save the child from the damaging effects of heroin addiction,” he said.
The Dayton area has also seen a rash of attacks by vicious dogs.
“I think we can do some things,” said State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City. “I’ve been part of meetings regarding the vicious dog laws, and we get interested parties together, we can get subject matter experts together, and there may be some things we can do legislatively, but that is not going to be the entire solution.”