Trump win could boost Wright-Patt and local military economy

Donald J. Trump as commander-in-chief could mean a bigger military and an end to automatic defense budget cuts that would boost the Dayton economy, analysts say.

But while the Republican president-elect campaigned to end sequestration and increase the size of the armed services, many questions remain unanswered, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs.

“He does not have a history of a policy background and that will make his future actions unpredictable as has been this entire race,” Gessel said Wednesday.

Among other unanswered questions, Gessel said, are how Trump will interact with Congress, how a larger military will be paid for and what impact will be felt by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the areas it is most reliant on — acquisition, research and development and education.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what additional statements he makes as well as what kind of political appointees he will put in place that will affect Wright-Patterson,” Gessel said.

Wright-Patterson is the largest single site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees and a $4.1 billion economic impact in the region.

Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst and an defense industry consultant, said a Trump presidency “will likely stimulate the Dayton-area economy, given his support for rebuilding the military and revitalizing U.S. manufacturing.”

With Republicans in control of both the White House and Congress, Trump’s win “probably portends an end to gridlock over defense spending” and lifting Budget Control Act caps on spending, Thompson said in an email.

“Trump’s win is good news for the Air Force, because he supports modernization of nuclear missiles and bombers,” Thompson added. “He also favors increasing the size of the fighter force, the naval fleet and ground forces.”

Trump campaigned to field 1,200 fighter planes to the Air Force, build a 350-ship Navy, and increase the size of the Army to 540,000 active-duty soldiers.

He has called for investing in a missile defense system on Navy warships to counter the ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea; and bolstering cyber warfare capabilities.

“His plans to rebuild are at least $55 (billion) to $60 billion and that is using conservative estimates,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, an American Enterprise Institute national security analyst. “It is much likely higher than that.”

With the budget rising, the threat of sequestration is “essentially removed” and the Budget Control Act most likely will be repealed, she added.

While a president can request a budget, only Congress can approriate funding, noted Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “So the direction of the defense budget depends to a great extent on the makeup of Congress and how well the President is able to work with Congress to reach a budget deal,” he said in an email.

“I would not assume a Trump administration means traditional single party control of government,” he added. “Many Republicans did not support Trump, and there are significant policy difference within the Republican Party, especially when it comes to foreign policy and trade. Democrats will still have enough votes to block significant legislation in the Senate, and that is an important power. This outcome could mean continued or even worse gridlock and could actually make it harder to reach a budget deal.”

On his campaign website, Trump vows to pay for a bigger military through “a full audit of the Pentagon, eliminating incorrect payments, reducing duplicative bureaucracy, collecting unpaid taxes and ending unwanted and unauthorized federal programs.”

He has vowed to destroy the Islamic State terrorist group.

In the midst of a contentious campaign, critics including Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton criticized Trump as “unfit” to be commander in chief.

During the campaign Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a leader and made statements that led some to question the American commitment to the NATO alliance. He chided countries he deemed were not paying enough for defense.

“President-elect Trump has repeatedly stated that America’s allies must spend more on their defense,” Thompson said. “When you couple that with his warmth toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the implication is that as President Trump will be less focused on European security.”

Thomas W. Spoehr, a Heritage Foundation defense analyst and retired Army three-star general, said U.S. policy makers have pressed allies behind closed doors for years to contribute more to their defense, but this campaign marked a departure because the talk surfaced in politics. “I think it’s important to realize he didn’t say he was going to pull out of NATO,” said Spoehr, who added the conservative think tank was politically non-partisan.

Joel Pruce, a University of Dayton assistant professor of human rights studies, said Trump’s election “destabilizes the world” and diminishes the United States standing around the globe.

“I think what’s most striking about Trump is how he approaches foreign policy in a way that deviates from American tradition entirely,” he said. He said Putin has jailed and executed political rivals, and pursued military actions into Georgia and Crimea. “Putin is simply not a role model and to celebrate him as a strong leader is to obscure how belligerent he is.”

Spoehr said as Trump receives daily intelligence briefings, the president-elect will realize the Cold War-like behavior Putin’s Russia has castigated around the world.

Like others during the campaign, Pruce had concerns on how Trump would handle the commander-in-chief’s responsibility of nuclear weapons. Trump had suggested he would support allies like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia obtaining nuclear weapons.

“It’s clear that he doesn’t understand the politics and security around nuclear weapons, nor is he at all interested in learning about them,” Pruce said. “He expresses contempt for all forms of norms and nuclear weapons are not an exception.”

Spoehr said a private citizen like Trump with no national security background may use “a lot of imprecise language” and would not be aware of nuclear policy issues.

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