Turner expects WPAFB to remain strong under Biden

Aerial view of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Ty Greenlees/DDN

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Aerial view of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Ty Greenlees/DDN

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio’s largest single-site employer with about 30,000 employees, should fare well under the new administration of President Joe Biden, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner said Tuesday in his first public remarks on the topic.

But Dayton-area advocates will have to be vigilant, Turner said.

Under the Obama-Biden administration, budget sequestration sometimes made life challenging for the base and area defense contractors. In 2013, thousands of civil service workers were sent home for days at Wright-Patterson because of furloughs officials blamed on sequestration. The prospect of further sequestrations — the practice of imposing a hard cap in certain areas of federal spending — often kept those linked to the base on edge in the years following.

“But during that time period, we were still able to grow Wright-Patt overall because of the central missions that Wright-Patt has for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” said Turner, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

“There is an expectation that the Biden administration top-line (defense spending) number will be declining,” the Dayton Republican said. “Even though that’s declining, I would project that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base should be able to hold the employment status that it currently does, with maybe small growth in areas that we have already achieved in the Trump administration.”

Defense spending in fiscal year 2020 reached $738 billion. Some government observers have predicted declining military budgets in coming years due primarily to COVID-19 and exploding federal deficits.

Two areas of growth that Turner expects to stay on track: The building of the National Space Intelligence Center which will serve Space Force and the move of an F-35 fighter jet sustainment program to WPAFB from Virginia.

But Turner has concerns — protecting the Space Intelligence Center and the key missions already anchored on the base, along with holding off feared cuts in defense spending and modernization.

“If we hold what we have and continue to grow, we’re going to see a great future,” he said.

He believes Space Force is secure. And he expects the new administration will review the force and placement of key missions tied to that force.

Earlier this month, Alabama leaders announced that the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. is the Department of the Air Force’s preferred location for the headquarters of Space Command, which is different from Space Force but allied in certain key missions related to the space arena. Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force, analogous to the relationship between the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Asked if the Redstone decision is a certainty, Turner said: “For all the locations that have been designated for Space Force, there will be a review by the Biden administration. And that’s why, certainly, our portion of Space Force, we’re going to have to advocate to (protect).”

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