Lawmakers vow to protect Wright-Patt

Annual fly-in reveals divisions on some issues, support for base.

Ohio lawmakers are united on the issue of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — they’re for it — but it became clear at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual “fly-in” to Washington that the group is far apart on some other issues.

Take the Export-Import Bank — the export credit agency of the United States, now up for reauthorization. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged local civic leaders visiting the nation’s Capital Wednesday to urge lawmakers to support it. “Democrats are ready to move on it,” Brown said. “Most Republicans are. But the tea party isn’t. We need you talk some sense to them.”

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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, meanwhile, had an entirely different sentiment. “This is something we should get rid of,” he said, calling the bank “corrupt.”

Their comments came during day two of the coalition’s annual “fly-in” to Washington, an event that drew more than 100 local business and civic leaders to the nation’s capital, all toting a wish list of legislative priorities.

On day two, the lawmakers took center stage: Both Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, addressed the group, as did Reps. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati and Jordan.

The group traditionally has focused on military and defense issues because of Dayton’s close proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the state’s largest single site employer and a bright spot in the region’s economy.

Turner, for example, repeated his concerns about the 10-year mandatory cuts — called “sequestration” — that would have a devastating impact on the base. A recent budget agreement paved the way to minimize the cuts, but Turner, who led a group of GOP lawmakers in threatening to vote against any budget agreement that allowed the cuts to go through, said it will continue to be a concern.

He spoke on the same week that the House of Representatives is scheduled to take up the National Defense Authorization Act. He said he plans to continue work to prevent sexual assault in the military in that bill, via provisions aimed at protecting civilians who are assaulted by members of the Armed Services and protecting same-sex victims of assault.

He’s worked on the problem since the 2007 murder of Maria Lauterbach, a Marine from Vandalia who was murdered by the man she’d accused of raping her. Every year, he said, he finds new problems with the military’s handling of sexual assault that need to be addressed, and every year, he uses the Defense Authorization Act to address those issues.

“I think we’re making headway,” he said.

Lawmakers also expressed support for the base — be it through the Air Force Institute of Technology, which they vowed to keep open — or by making sure Wright-Patterson is protected — and maybe even adds missions — if Congress goes through with another round of base closures in the next few years.

“A BRAC could be coming,” said Stivers. “And we should be ready. It’s a threat, right, but it’s also an opportunity.”

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