Ohio should set up a special office on military affairs that reports to the governor and lobbies to protect more than 110,000 military-related jobs across the state, according to a 23-page report released Tuesday.
The recommendation comes from a 12-member BRAC and Military Affairs Task Force, established in August 2017 and chaired by state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek.
“I don’t care how much this costs, the return on investment is going to be huge,” Perales said at a Statehouse press conference Tuesday.
“Many other states have already made this move and are working at an advantage,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Cassie Barlow.
A “BRAC” — base realignment and closure — is high-stakes process for Ohio, particularly at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In the national review of military bases, the state can gain or lose thousands federal jobs.
While the Pentagon has estimated that the military has 20 percent more space than needed, Congress has resisted calling for a new BRAC. Perales said the most likely next BRAC won’t be until 2021 but it’s best to be prepared.
“Make no mistake, Congress has the ability to do whatever they like,” he said.
The last BRAC round in 2005 brought more than 1,100 jobs to Wright-Patterson and the addition of the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and the AFRL Sensors Directorate. Perales said even though Ohio gained jobs, it may have missed out on grabbing even more.
Wright-Patt is the largest military installation in Ohio with about 27,000 employees and 100 units inside the fence. It has a direct payroll of $2.2-billion and an estimated $4.3 billion total regional economic impact.
While Wright-Patt is Ohio’s biggest military installation, it isn’t the only one. Ohio is also home to: Youngstown Air Reserve Station, NASA Glenn Research Center, U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, Toledo Air Guard Station, Defense Finance Accounting Services - Cleveland, Lima Army Tank Plant, Mansfield Air Guard Station, Piqua Armory, Springfield Air Guard Station, Delaware Armory and Rickenbacker Air Guard Station.
All told, the installations represent 60,000 federal jobs, 50,000 support jobs and a collective payroll of $5 billion, according to the task force report.
Barlow said Ohio has multiple military affairs committees that work in silos. The new statewide office would work to better coordinate those efforts, she said.
Perales introduced House Bill 696, which calls for establishing the Office of Government and Military Affairs, which would be authorized to issue loans or grants to defense or NASA organizations in Ohio. He did not have a price tag on how much the new office would cost.