Sequestration could cost Wright-Patterson Air Force Base up to 6,000 military and civilian jobs by next year, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said Tuesday.
Moreover, said Turner, the region could lose a total of about 13,000 jobs both in and outside the base in the years ahead, and $8.6 billion to the economy is at risk over the decade sequestration would be in effect.
“This is not the result of a policy shift. This is not a result of a BRAC (base realignment and closure),” Turner said. “This is really the result of the negligence of the work not getting done in Washington. With 6,000 jobs at risk, it is absolutely imperative that our community join together with one voice to ensure these job losses don’t happen.”
Turner, R-Dayton, had a forum Tuesday at Sinclair Community College on the sequestration impact to the Miami Valley. Military and private sector leaders told state and local political leaders of the economic and national security fallout they said would happen because of the automatic federal budget cuts.
The estimate of up to 6,000 job losses was based on a House Armed Services Committee extrapolation of the number of jobs and dollars the Air Force has said it will cut in the years ahead because of the sequester, Turner said. The Republican congressman is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.
The Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce are working to get the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Kasich behind a drive to bring more attention to the looming threat of job losses and to prevent the cuts, officials said.
When asked about the potential for job losses at the base, Air Force officials referred to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s remarks to the House Armed Services Committee in September that up to 25,000 airmen and 550 aircraft would need to be cut in the next five years if the sequester continues.
“How that translates for all the different commands across the Air Force is yet to be seen, so I haven’t seen a number yet,” said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander, told the Dayton Daily News at a press briefing afterwards.
“At this point, it’s too soon to determine exactly where those cuts would take place,” Lt. Col. Laurel P. Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said in an email.
Jeff Hoagland, Dayton Development Coalition president and chief executive officer, estimated sequestration may have already meant a loss of 2,000 base-connected jobs.
The base had around 29,000 employees at last count.
If the cuts happen, the trickle-down effect would mean less tax revenue for local governments and fewer services to taxpayers, officials said.
“I’ve always said if Wright-Patterson gets a cold, Greene County gets pneumonia,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser. “Well, Wright-Patterson is getting more than a cold.”
The budget sequester has led to “record numbers” of senior and junior employees leaving and a “brain drain” at Wright-Patterson, Barlow said.
“When we have people leave earlier than expected it’s alarming because that means we haven’t had time to pass on that knowledge to the next generation,” she said.
In the first nine months of sequestration, the base temporarily sent home thousands of employees on an unpaid six-day furlough and later an unplanned four-day emergency furlough during the partial government shutdown, she noted. Wright-Patterson faces a growing maintenance backlog without enough money to fix decaying and damaged infrastructure for everything from an underground pipeline to a runway and reduced “quality of life” programs, she said.
Spending caps could dry up money for utilities by June, and logistics readiness contracts by May, she said.
Carl Francis, a Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association vice president, said a Dayton Defense survey of defense contractors in the region showed as much as a 75 percent drop in sales and a loss of $300 million through late August “with billions in revenue at risk.”
Between 20 to 35 percent in staff reductions have hit some companies, he said.
“We’ll feel these effects for years to come,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”
‘Doesn’t bode well’
With all the uncertainty, some contractors have gravitated away from doing business with the government and are focusing instead on commercial sales, according to Francis.
“This doesn’t bode well for the Air Force, it doesn’t bode well for national security, nor does it bode well for our competitive advantage here in this economy,” he said.
A number of area companies have slowed growth because of sequestration and consumers have pared back spending, said Chris Kershner, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce vice president of public policy and economic development.
“The unknown and eleventh hour federal government budget decisions do impact businesses and their investment confidence,” he said.