State leaders tour Wright Patt as they explore how to protect bases

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State leaders tour Wright Patt as they explore how to protect bases

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State Reps. Hearcel F. Craig, D-Columbus, and Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, toured Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Friday as part of a state BRAC and Military Affairs Task Force. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

A state panel touring military bases across Ohio to urge ways to protect the facilities visited the state’s largest installation base Friday as the panel prepares to release findings early next year.

Seven members of the 12-member BRAC and Military Affairs Task Force toured Wright-Patterson Air Force Base over five hours, the longest scheduled stop thus far to about a dozen installations in Ohio, said state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beaverceek, and task force chairman.

The Miami Valley base, the state’s largest military installation with about 27,000 employees and about 100 units inside the fence, is the most complex of Ohio military facilities, he said.

The Wright-Patterson stops included the 445th Airlift Wing, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Air and Space Intelligence, and the 88th Air Base Wing headquarters.

“It’s huge,” said state Rep. Hearcel F. Craig, D-Columbus. “The sheer size of the landscape of the base is enormous.”

The Pentagon and the White House pushed for a base realignment and closure round in the latest defense budget, but Congress didn’t go along — despite years of pleas from top military leaders that the Department of Defense has too many bases for the size of the force.

Still, state leaders say they want to be prepared if a BRAC happens or the Pentagon reduces or moves missions on its own.

“When and if we are hit with a BRAC or anything that smells like a BRAC, we can pull that (report) out,” Perales said, saying it would be updated annually. “We won’t have to dust it off, it will be pretty accurate and we can just give a quick update.

“We’re going to have the whole state buy into it,” he added. “We’re not just coming to southwest Ohio.”

The task force will release recommendations and priorities on what to focus on by the end of March next year, Perales said.

This year, state lawmakers set aside $500,000 over two years to pay for infrastructure needs at Wright-Patterson to bolster the installation’s military value in anticipation of a future round of base closures.

The last BRAC round in 2005 brought more than 1,100 jobs to Wright-Patterson and the addition of the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and the AFRL Sensors Directorate.

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