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Air Force urged to pick Wright-Patterson for hundreds more jobs

Wright-Patterson could add 400 jobs if Air Force leaders are persuaded by Ohio’s congressional delegation to locate a F-35 stealth fighter office to the Miami Valley base.

The Defense Department and the Air Force have not said how many bases are in contention for the F-35 Product Hybrid Support Integrator Organization. But Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Phil Parker said Wright-Patterson was likely “a top contender” for the Air Force jobs.

“I think it would be a real plus to our continued importance and growth inside the fence and even outside the fence with some of the contractors that might play a role in that development,” he said.

“I can’t speak to that it’s a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly makes a lot of sense with the capability we have” and the military and civilian workforce.

RELATED: Wright-Patt a contender to manage stealth fighter program

Parker said the Dayton Development Coalition is actively involved in working to attract the new jobs. Michael Gessel, Coalition vice president of federal programs, said he could not comment publicly.

Pentagon leaders have concurred with a report to create two separate offices — one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Marine Corps — to manage three different versions of the F-35. The Joint Program Office in Crystal City, Md., manages the program today which has been under development since 2001.

Wright-Patterson has an F-35 technical division office, but the additional jobs would add more responsibility for oversight and management.

“Wright-Patt is probably the only base in the entire Air Force where every single skill and competency relevant to the F-35 is already resident,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

RELATED: Spending plan could give boost to Wright-Patt

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the Ohio congressional delegation cited Wright-Patterson’s technical workforce, area universities and command headquarters among key factors to bring the jobs to the region.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, were among those who signed the letter.

“First, we make a good case and Wright-Patt is … the ideal place for this,” Brown, co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus, said in a brief interview Thursday.

The congressional delegation cited the acquisition headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, which manages aircraft programs, the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops new aircraft technologies, and the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which handles foreign sales, among reasons to locate the office at the base.

In a recent interview, Turner, whose district spans Wright-Patterson and is the chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said the base should “bode well” in the competition because of an experienced workforce managing aircraft programs and offices for foreign military sales.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson to get new base commander

Wright-Patterson has a “long legacy … of working on advanced aircraft” and is close to Washington, D.C., he added.

“It will be an easy transition if it comes to Dayton, Ohio,” he said then.

The Fighters and Bombers Directorate, which oversees management programs such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22, and the B-1, B-2 and B-52, is headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel. The base has an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.

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