The Air Force will build closer partnerships between Wright-Patterson and industry, academia and government agencies as the military contends with a shrinking defense budget, base leaders said Wednesday.
The public and private sector partnerships could mean developers constructing new buildings on the Miami Valley base to meet Air Force and private sector needs, to contracts with cities or the state for shared services or to cut costs on purchases, said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson.
“When you operate a city, which is what we do at Wright-Patterson, we have a very similar mission to a lot of the municipalities in the local area and we have a lot in common,” she said.
Air Force officials will publicly explain the community partnership initiative Feb. 20. A time and location for the forum has not been announced.
The base went through budget cuts, furloughs and a government shutdown last year as sequestration cut into Defense Department spending, and hit both military combat readiness and employee morale and their pocketbooks. The suddenness of the reductions forced the base to find immediate ways to cut expenses, from turning off hallway lights during the workday to cutting contracts with some local companies.
The decision to pursue partnerships with the public and private sectors follows Wright-Patterson’s decision to privatize most energy and utility operations. In the pursuit of agreements, Dayton has hired a consultant under a two-year, $40,000 contract in its second year to explore how to provide services to Ohio’s largest single site employer.
Riverside City Manager Bryan Chodkowski said the “outside-the-fence” approach could mean economic gains for the city bordering Wright-Patterson.
“I think this is an important step in developing stronger economic ties with the base,” he said. “… The fact that they’re coming to the table to develop this policy is a huge milestone. What that’s going to mean for all of us, we’re going to have to see how that develops, but it’s an exciting time.”
Wright-Patterson has about 480 “develop-able” acres close to the fence line, Barlow has said.
In what might be used as a model of public and private partnerships, Wright Patterson has an enhanced-use lease with Kettering Health Network to run a hyperbaric chamber at Wright-Patterson under a five-year contract paying $120,000 a year.
The theme of community partnerships and cost cutting was a message base leaders touted repeatedly Wednesday.
Speaking to the Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander, emphasized the need for stronger partnerships and cost effectiveness.
“We’re going to get smaller, we’re going to get leaner and we need to do a better job managing our resources,” he said.
Exact details of what might be cut weren’t immediately available Wednesday. Congress has passed a $1.1 trillion spending budget that set aside $579 billion for the military in fiscal year 2014.
“Now we actually have some certainty, (but) there’s still some unknowns about the allocation of the funds and how that’s going to affect us in our business area, but I think it’s fair to say … the numbers are coming down and we’re going to have to adjust accordingly,” Moore said.
“I think it’s the compelling reason why we need to strengthen our partnerships with industry, academia and other government organizations.”
The Life Cycle Management Center, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, reviewed hundreds of initiatives for cost savings as part of an “aggressive cost management” among 3,000 programs managed at the acquisition and product support agency, he said.
“We’ve already tabulated literally billions of dollars in potential cost savings that we’re going after, aggressively going after,” the three-star general said.
The command manages acquisition and product support for aircraft, engines, munitions, electronics, and cyberspace. AFLCMC has about 26,000 military and civilian employees at 77 sites around the world, with the largest concentration of workers at Wright-Patterson.
The Air Force Research Laboratory will rely more on small business innovation and international research and development partnerships, said Jack L. Blackhurst, AFRL director of plans and programs.
“I can’t talk enough about partnerships,” Blackhurst told the Dayton Defense attendees at the organization’s annual community showcase at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center. “With reduced budgets, and those sorts of things, it’s the first thing we look at.”
Dayton Defense Executive Director Deborah Gross said talk of a two-way dialog between local industry and the Air Force and more dollars set aside for small business research and development were encouraging signs. Steep military spending reductions have buffeted the defense industry and caused uncertainty within the past year.