Experts say more focus needed on military research

The military needs to find ways to devote more resources to developing new technologies as it faces threats ranging from cyber attacks to ISIS, a panel of experts said Tuesday in Springfield.

“It’s a reality that we need to start putting money into the technology that will be a game-changer to maintain our military security,” said retired Gen. Lester Lyles of the U.S. Air Force.

The region’s assets, both military and commercial, will also likely play a key role in those efforts, said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition. Locally, the military has as much as a $4 billion economic impact in Montgomery, Greene and Miami counties alone, Hoagland said.

Lyles and Hoagland were among the speakers who discussed national security and economic development issues at a forum Tuesday at SelectTech Geospatial in Springfield. The DDC and SelectTech organized the event.

The U.S. has been consistently involved in conflicts for more than two decades, stretching as far back as Operation Desert Shield in 1990, said retired U.S. Air Force General T. Michael Moseley, who previously served as the chief of staff for the Air Force. The military is too often using aging equipment and technology, which weakens the country’s capabilities to handle new threats, he added.

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Countries like Russia and China often have mutual interests with the U.S., but it’s important to have a strong military to ensure the U.S. negotiates from a strong position, Moseley said.

“The most successful players in this game never have to fight because you are dominant,” Moseley said.

But the U.S. already has a significant lead over other countries like China and Russia, and that will remain as long as the U.S. at least maintains current spending levels, said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a military information website.

“We’ve had a 20-year lead over China for decades now, and they are not catching up,” Pike said.

Arbitrary spending limits from sequestration are posing a new set of challenges, especially for science and technology programs, said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Sequestration is a series of mandatory spending caps on several federal agencies.

“Science and technology accounts demand a long-term view and stable funding,” Portman said. “When you don’t have that, you see real problems.”

Portman pointed to recent threats ranging from ISIS to a security breach earlier this year in which hackers gained access to the personnel records from the Office of Personnel Management of as many as 4.2 million current and former federal employees.

Portman also pointed to the importance of local assets like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the 178th Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard in Springfield and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima. Workers at the Lima facility manufacture the Abrams tank, among other military vehicles.

Manufacturing firms in Dayton and Springfield are also in the middle of efforts to develop new technologies, Portman said, noting the area is included in the Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region.

The federal SOAR designation allows local organizations in a 27-county area, including Clark and Montgomery, to get preferential treatment when applying for government funding to support the aerospace manufacturing industry.

Wright-Patterson in particular is an economic anchor for the region, and assets like the Air Force Research Laboratory play an important role in developing new defense technologies, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in a video message before the panel discussion. Brown could not be reached for further comment Tuesday afternoon.

“Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is well-positioned to help our military and nation meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Brown said.

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