The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) has launched an initiative called the “Federal Retention Program” to protect and expand Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. But that effort is an uphill battle against federal fiscal instability.
Wright-Patt puts upwards of $4 billion a year into the Dayton region, and a major goal of the new initiative is to keep that money coming in. At the same time, DDC president Jeff Hoagland admits the outlook in Washington is a bit bleak.
“We think the reality is with sequestration and with budget cuts and with furloughs now, efficiency cuts are gonna have to happen,” he said at the public launch of the Federal Retention Program Wednesday. Already this year, Wright-Patt workers have seen furlough days due to sequestration and the partial federal government shutdown, and although civilians are back at work now, the shutdown’s ripple effects continue to slow work at Wright-Patt.
And with or without spending cuts into the future, the base could be preparing for another Base Realignment and Closure or BRAC, a Congressional process that periodically reorganizes military bases, closing some and rearranging missions at others.
Wright-Patt was a winner in the last BRAC, and got new missions and dollars out of it. But retired Air Force General Lester Lyles, who heads the Dayton Development Coalition’s Wright-Patt 2020 committee, won’t speculate about the next BRAC, calling it a “four-letter word.”
“Don’t use that pejorative term BRAC,” he said. “People think of realignment, and they focus on the C aspect of BRAC, closure, and they fail to look at the opportunities that are there.”
The Department of Defense has called for BRACs in 2015 and 2017, although Congress’ current standstill means a BRAC is not likely to be just around the corner. Leaders of Wright-Patt 2020 say they will focus on keeping military missions strong in the Dayton region much further into the future.
The DDC, Wright State and the state congressional delegation representing the base have obtained nearly $20 million for 2014 alone from state, academic and private sector funders to study the base’s assets, and strengthen partnerships and collaboration between Wright-Patt’s operations and other institutions in the Dayton area.