Governor-elect Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jon Husted take the stage on election night at the GOP celebration at the Sheraton Hotel on Capitol Square Tuesday. Jonathan Quilter/The Columbus Dispatch

Would a new cabinet post protect WPAFB? Analyst says yes.

Ohio Gov.-elect Mike DeWine has proposed creating a cabinet-level post to protect Ohio military installations.

That’s a good idea, one national defense analyst familiar with the Dayton area said Thursday.

In the Dayton area, such an office would necessarily work to protect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the state’s largest single-site employer with about 27,000 civilian and military workers.

“As you know, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a very complex place,” DeWine said at a Wednesday press conference after winning the race for governor against Democrat Richard Cordray.

“It’s important that the state fully understand what’s going on at the base and how we can be helpful. It is an essential part of the economy of the state of Ohio and certainly it’s an essential part of the economy in the Miami Valley,” DeWine said.

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Loren Thompson, a defense analyst and chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said creating such a position would signal nationally 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.”

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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 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 have 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,” he quipped. “There are military installations everywhere you look in places like Alabama and Georgia.”

Ohio should keep three possibilities in mind, Thompson said.

First, 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

And finally, 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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