Wright-Patterson could lose 372 military and civilian jobs by this fall in an Air Force-wide reorganization that will create a central installations support center, according to the service branch.
Air Force Materiel Command headquarters will lose 364 of those jobs, and eight others will be cut throughout the base, AFMC spokesman Ron Fry said Monday.
In total, the Air Force will eliminate 3,459 positions service-wide to save $1.6 billion. The Air Force, like the other military branches, is under a Department of Defense directive to cut headquarters’ staffs by 20 percent.
“This shows how much pressure the Air Force is under to cut costs,” said Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant. “It is really having trouble making ends meet because of the budget laws and it’s cutting things that it may one day miss.”
The Air Force will offer retirement incentives, and place people in vacant jobs at the base, Fry said.
“We’re going to make every effort we can to reduce adverse impacts on the workforce,” he said.
The new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center will report to AFMC, becoming the sixth center under the authority of the four-star command based at Wright-Patterson, the largest single site employer in Ohio with about 27,000 employees.
A site for the new center has not been selected, which will bring with it 350 jobs, according to Maj. Gen Theresa Carter, who will lead the drive to select a location. Forty-four of the jobs cut at Wright-Patterson will transfer to the center.
In an interview Monday, Carter said the Air Force looked closely at Army and the Navy installation support commands as examples to more effectively and efficiently provide support. The center will consolidate support for security forces, civil engineering, and operational contracting, among other areas, at the Air Force headquarters, major commands and field operating agencies, officials said.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James will decide where to locate the center, Carter said. A list of potential sites could be presented to the secretary by the end of the month. Site surveys will gather more information, and a final decision is anticipated by the end of 2014. “This is a very transparent process,” Carter said.
She said Monday she could not comment on locations under review, but officials said the list would be released after the secretary is briefed.
Wright-Patterson may have a good shot at gaining the new organization, Thompson said. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the Air Force Research Laboratories call the base home.
“If merit is the basis for the decision, Wright-Patterson would be close to the top of the list in terms of where the center should go,” Thompson said. “It may be the best run base in the Air Force. It certainly has other relevant responsibilities. However, the Air Force has to spread out its political footprint to maintain congressional support.”
Ultimately, the number of people wh0 lose jobs at Wright-Patterson will likely be “a small fraction” of the positions cut, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs.
Some of the eliminated jobs will be vacant, and many employees will find jobs elsewhere on base, he said.
“We are always disappointed when we hear of job loss or the loss of positions,” Gessel said. “The employment of the base goes up and goes down and this is a number that Wright-Patterson can easily accommodate given its size.”
Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said the base personnel office was handling in excess of 4o0 job openings Monday, most of which would be filled at the base. More job postings were anticipated.
In a statement Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he had a conference call with Under Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning about the pending changes.
“Under Secretary Fanning assured me that most affected jobs at Wright-Patterson would have the opportunity to transition to other available positions on the base,” Turner said. “The final net impact remains unclear, but I continue to work closely with Air Force leaders to mitigate any and all negative impacts to the base.”
As part of the reorganization, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson will get a new chain of command structure. It will report directly to the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Meanwhile, the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, which NASIC had been assigned to, will become a numbered Air Force and part of the Air Combat Command headquartered at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
Turner, House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, sent a letter to James in March lobbying against NASIC and AFISRA becoming part of the Air Combat Command. The congressional lawmakers wrote a previous attempt to relocate the intelligence agency under ACC had “failed.” They noted ACC did not have an interest or in-depth understanding of space and missile systems, which is NASIC’s intelligence mission.
“The new chain of command will be less wieldy and give NASIC higher visibility with the Air Force than it would have had it remained with AFISRA under the new organization,” Gessel said.