The Air Force has chosen Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to be the interim headquarters for a new installations support center, a facility with 350 jobs Dayton-area officials want to eventually bring to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in a high-stakes competition pitting Ohio against other states.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, has met with high-ranking Air Force leaders about the potential of locating the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center at Wright-Patterson while congressional delegations in Texas and Virginia have urged the Air Force to locate the center at bases in their home states.
The center has taken on added importance in places like Ohio, Virginia, and Texas where military bases with command headquarters will lose hundreds of jobs under a Defense Department budget-cutting order.
Wright-Patterson will cut 372 positions, most at Air Force Materiel Command headquarters, by Oct. 1. The new center, meanwhile, will report to AFMC.
The center and the promise of more jobs were on the “radar screen” of the Dayton Development Coalition, according to Michael Gessel, Coalition vice president of federal programs, who spoke at a recent at a Wright-Patterson focused jobs retention forum in Dayton.
A chance at more jobs?
Loren B. Thompson, a defense analyst at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said if the center stays at Andrews for a few months, Wright-Patterson will have a shot at gaining it. But if it stays more than a year, bureaucratic inertia and the expense of moving the new center may keep it there.
“If there’s one thing the National Capital Region doesn’t need it’s another military organization that could have been put out in the countryside building up the local economy and sustaining support for national defense,” he said. “The military just has too much of its dollars and personnel concentrated around Washington.”
Thompson said Wright-Patterson has “numerous advantages” in the state-to-state battle.
“First of all, it is a nerve center of Air Force management and technological activity,” he said. “Second, it is a very well managed base with diverse facilities. Third, the cost of operating in Ohio is much less than the cost of operating in the National Capital Region, and fourth the jobs would do the nation more good in Ohio than Washington.”
Joint Base Andrews, near Washington, D.C., is best known as the home to presidential jets that transport the president and high-ranking national leaders around the world.
Air Force Materiel Command spokesman Ron Fry said Thursday the Air Force will take several months to select possible sites for a permanent center location.
“No one should make the assumption that because the provisional (headquarters) is at Andrews, that’s where the permanent home is going to be,” he said.
Maurice “Mo” McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of defense and aerospace, said: “When the time is right if (the Air Force needs) the support or input from our community we will definitely support that.”
State vs. state
The competition over the center has pitted state versus state in the congressional battle for the jobs and mission. The center, led by Maj. Gen. Theresa Carter, will consolidate support services at one central facility spread among 10 major commands. Several Air Force field agencies, such as the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency at Wright-Patterson, will report to it.
Congressional lawmakers in Texas and Virginia sent letters to Air Force and Defense Department leaders to lobby for their states. Turner has met with AFMC Gen. Janet Wolfenbager and spoke to Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning about the issue, according to the congressman’s office.
Virginia lawmakers, including the state’s two U.S. senators and four House representatives, said the Atlantic Coast state was the best spot.
“Virginia is more connected to the military than any other state, and we believe the existing infrastructure, military-friendly environment, and close proximity to major commands and other Service installations, make it an ideal location for this headquarters,” they wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.
The Virginia delegation argued Joint Base Langley-Eustis and the National Capitol Region around Washington, D.C., will be “disproportionately impacted” because of large workforce cuts in the Air Force’s plan to cut more than 3,400 jobs at headquarters’ staffs, or at least a 20 percent cutback.
Langley will lose 742 jobs and the National Capital Region 734 positions, the lawmakers wrote.
“Locating the new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC) in Virginia will minimize the impact to Airmen and Air Force civilians and their families, while also minimizing Permanent Change of Station (PCS) expenses,” they wrote.
In a letter to James and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, five Texas congressmen noted half of the six field agencies that will report to the AFIMSC are located at Joint Base San Antonio, the place the political leaders urged the Air Force to place the center.
“As the largest joint base in the United States military and the only joint base with two Air Force bases in close proximity, Joint Base San Antonio should already be at the top of the list to host the new AFIMSC,” they wrote.