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Why Wright-Patt could be even stronger after this week’s election

Tuesday’s election may leave Ohio’s largest single-site employer in a stronger place, some observers say.

Ohio Gov.-elect Mike DeWine has proposed creating a cabinet-level position to protect Ohio military installations, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — an idea observers familiar with the Dayton region embraced Thursday.

In the Dayton area, such a post would necessarily work to protect Wright-Patterson, which has about 27,000 civilian and military workers.

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And with an approaching Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition, Jeff Hoagland, said he believes the base will continue to see bipartisan support.

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The base received bipartisan support for funding approved this year for a $182 million expansion of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patt.

Democrats and Republicans — including Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, a Democrat and a Republican respectively, and U.S. Rep. U.S. Mike Turner, R-Dayton — worked together on that funding.

“We still have a lot of friends on the House side,” Hoagland said.

Meanwhile, a new state-level cabinet post dedicated to the protection of Ohio military missions would dovetail nicely with the coalition’s own core mission in protecting Wright-Patterson.

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“As you know, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a very complex place,” DeWine said Wednesday.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said creating such a position would signal that Ohio leaders care about the state’s military missions.

Compared to other bases in other states, Wright-Patterson is fairly well protected thanks to the size and diversity of its missions, Thompson said. Headquartered at Wright-Patterson are crucial commands and labs dedicated to Air Force logistics, supply and research.

“In terms of its future security, I would bet on Wright-Patt above any other Air Force installation,” Thompson said.

He added: “Anybody in the Air Force will tell you that. I can remember people telling me that 10, 20 years ago.”

But signaling to the Air Force that Wright-Patterson is valued would still be worthwhile, he added.

“I think the governor-elect is sending a signal that Ohio needs every job that is associated with the U.S. military, and that historically it (Ohio) has not gotten as much money as other states,” he said.

Compared to states such as Alabama and Virginia, Ohio doesn’t have the same concentration of military missions, he said.

“If you drive through Alabama, and you lose control of your car, if you veer off the road, there’s a 20 percent chance you’re going to hit a military installation,” Thompson quipped. “There are military installations everywhere you look in places like Alabama and Georgia.”

Hoagland likes the idea. “From a statewide perspective, we think it’s a great initiative,” he said of a new cabinet post.

Ohio should doing everything it can to protect its military installations, Thompson said.

In any national base closure or realignment process, other states would likely pursue Air National Guard installations in the Buckeye State, he said.

There are no guarantees, but there could be efforts to shift some responsibilities from Wright-Patterson, he warned. Even though the local base is well positioned, it and Ohio might be able to move jobs from other areas.

A Wright-Patterson spokeswoman said base officials do not comment on pending legislation.

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