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Air Force wants to spare Wright-Patterson intel project from 'emergency' cuts

By JESSICA WEHRMAN | The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio | Published: April 5, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The undersecretary of the Air Force said Friday that a proposed $182 million intelligence center at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base is considered a "critical" mission to the Air Force and that they have recommended money for that building not be used to build a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border.

Matthew P. Donovan, undersecretary of the Air Force, made the remarks during an early morning speech to Dayton leaders in Washington to lobby on behalf of Wright-Patterson and the Dayton region.

The group has been anxious about news that "unobligated" military construction funds —for projects that are not yet under contract but are at least partially funded — will be used as part of a national emergency declaration declared by President Donald Trump in February to build a border wall.

Some $112 million of money for Ohio projects appropriated at year could be at risk, including $61 million of the $182 million National Air and Space Intelligence Center, known as NASIC.

But Donovan said Friday that the Air Force has recommended to the Defense Department that NASIC money not be used to help pay for the wall.

"What we have done is gone through and prioritized and what we did was recommend certain projects that could be cut to DoD ... and the NASIC one was one that we recommended that they don't use because of the criticality of the mission."

In an interview after his speech, Donovan said the Air Force is providing "feedback" to the secretary of defense on which projects shouldn't be cut.

"NASIC provides sort of a bedrock of the national defense strategy for the Air Force," he said. "Because we have to know what the threats going to be like and they're the ones that characterize the threats for us."

A spokeswoman for Donovan later said while "there is not a prioritized list of projects ... there are projects we identified within the overall list as critical to mission."

Donovan's remarks to the group, in town for its annual lobbying trip, were reassuring in multiple ways. He also emphasized the importance of the often–endangered Air Force Institute of Technology, an Air Force graduate school at Wright–Patt, saying its mission was viewed as a "critical building block" for the force.

"I know that over the years people have questioned the need for AFIT," he said "And that is just not the case anymore."

In the interview, Donovan said "you never say never," but said AFIT "is so important to the Air Force now and as we align the national defense strategy and the capabilities that I've talked about that we have to develop, we've got to have a brain trust that's also within the Air Force."

Donovan is currently the second-in-command at the Air Force under Secretary Heather Wilson, who will resign in May. He is expected to becoming acting secretary after she leaves.

jwehrman@dispatch.com

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