Defense forum targets ways to collaborate for jobs, bases in Ohio

Military leaders around the state gathered at the Ohio Defense Forum on Oct. 17-18, 2017, in Columbus. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

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Military leaders around the state gathered at the Ohio Defense Forum on Oct. 17-18, 2017, in Columbus. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

The defense industry, universites and government agencies need to work more collaboratively in Ohio to compete against other states vying to keep and grow defense-related jobs, lawmakers say.

A two-day Ohio Defense Forum in Columbus on Tuesday and Wednesday — the second year of the event — brought more than 200 people to explore issues confronting Ohio military and federal installations, how to protect those jobs and bases, and how to work together to expand the industry.

“We know that other congressional delegations have states that are more supportive of a statewide strategy,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, whose district spans Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “This is part of our effort to help pull the state together and initiate a strategy and support the facilities that we have.”

RELATED: Ohio needs statewide strategy to protect bases, leaders say

Among other topics, defense leaders targeted what the state is doing to prepare for the possibility of a new round of base closures and growing links between universities and federal research labs in Ohio.

“We’ve got a legacy of accomplishing big things (in Ohio) and in a world that is as challenging, dynamic and as dangerous as the world has become today keeping a technological edge for our own national security is vitally important,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta.

Defense leaders have pushed for community partnerships to lower costs in an era of defense spending budget caps, too.

Sequestration, or automatic cuts to the defense budget, caused Wright-Patterson to pursue partnerships outside the fence line in 2014, said Cassie B. Barlow, former Wright-Patterson installation commander.

“To say the word desperate is probably an understatement,” she said at the forum. “We were really looking for opportunities to save money.”

RELATED: Ohio leaders say funding will help protect Wright Patt

With a potential base realignment and closure round looming, communities that help bases operate more cost efficiently and produce the technical workforce needed for defense jobs could have an edge when cuts at installations are evaluated, officials said.

To grow more defense-related jobs, state entities must collaborate more to meet the evolving technology needs of the Defense Department, said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and a House Appropriations Committee member who has a fighter wing in her congressional district.

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