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Base stands to gain thousands of jobs; AFIT stays
Posted: 09/29/2005 by AFIT Public Affairs

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base supporters were jubilant Thursday as the independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted mainly to retain important base jobs and missions, and could add about 2,000 research jobs involving medicine and other fields.

Overall, the Dayton Development Coalition estimates a net gain of 5,900 direct jobs from all the moves, including contractors, support and direct government jobs, said John P. Nauseef, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton Development Coalition.

The coalition estimates an additional 5,000 indirect jobs, such as real estate and retail, will result, he said.

The coalition is a nonprofit group of business leaders that spearheaded the campaign to defend area defense jobs.

Good news about the region's largest employer overshadowed the panel's decision to close the Defense Finance and Accounting Service station in Kettering, costing the city 425 jobs by 2009, city officials said.

"I'd say it's a big win for Wright-Patterson. These are high-end, high-tech jobs we're using to brand ourselves for (economic) development," Nauseef said.

The decisions bolster Wright-Patterson's already critical role in the region's economy. The coalition estimates the economic impact of base jobs and contracts at $2.5 billion a year.

The commission spared Wright-Patterson's Development and Fielding Systems Group — which deals with automated business systems — from a Pentagon recommendation to move it to an Air Force base near Boston, a move the coalition has claimed would have cost the area at least 2,250 jobs.

It also spared the Air Force Institute of Technology from a proposal to either privatize it or merge it with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. A merger would have seen the nearly 500 AFIT faculty and staff and 1,000 students transferred to the West Coast.

And several related votes by the panel would make Wright-Patterson a major center for aerospace medical training and research.

Organizations coming to the base include the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the Air Force Institute of Occupational Health, the Naval Aeromedical Research Laboratory, an acceleration training and research centrifuge and a high-acceleration physiological training unit.

Frank Perez, chief executive officer of Kettering Medical Center and a member of a coalition team that analyzed the BRAC medical issues, said the incoming work will create a synergy with resources already here, including Wright State University's aerospace medicine residency program.

The recommendations must still be approved by President Bush and Congress could reject them. But that hasn't happened in the four previous BRAC rounds.

Still, Nauseef said community leaders need to keep their eyes on the process.

"We need to stay on top of it and work with our congressional delegation to make sure these decisions are executed," he said.

AFIT wasn't in the original Defense Department recommendations, but the commission last month put its future in question when it voted to consider merging or privatizing those two schools along with the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.

Community leaders in Dayton and Monterey teamed up in urging the commission to keep the schools in their respective communities.

Ultimately, the commission dropped the language school from discussion and unanimously supported a proposal to create an oversight board to oversee the Air Force and Navy schools. Commission members said it aimed to formalize a 2002 agreement between the two schools to share resources and eliminate duplicative courses.

Under their plan, the new board will be based in the Washington, D.C. region and will have equal representation from AFIT and the Naval Postgraduate School. The board will have the power to eliminate curriculum duplication, enhance cooperative agreements between the schools, and eliminate excess capacity at both schools.

Instead of just keeping the status quo, the commission's action could help AFIT, said Michael Heil, a retired Air Force colonel who was the school's commandant from 2001 through 2003.

"It'll provide additional advocacy, insight and support for AFIT" at the secretary of defense level, he said.

"We're taking two great graduate schools and allowing them to kind of get the synergies of being great and share their expertise and hopefully avoid some duplication," said Commissioner Samuel Skinner, who visited AFIT this summer.

But it was the proposal to send the Development and Fielding Systems Group to Hanscom Air Force Base near Boston that could have cost the region the most jobs. It would have cost Wright-Pat more than 2,250 jobs, according to Pentagon numbers — which the development coalition challenged as too low.

Les Farrington, a BRAC commission staffer, testified that the Wright-Patterson jobs, as well as Alabama jobs set to move to Hanscom, had little to do with the mission described in the Defense Department recommendation. He said the Wright-Pat program focuses on buying and supporting automated business systems, and had little to do with research and development.

"You have an apple and an orange here," he said.

Commissioner Harold Gehman criticized the defense proposal, saying the department essentially lumped together a bunch of similar-sounding programs that actually had little to do with one another. He introduced an amendment to overturn the entire proposal.

Gehman's amendment passed 7-1, with one recusal. Commissioner James Bilbray opposed the amendment.

"It was just a dumb idea done by people trying to do something right and it didn't work," said Commissioner James Hill. "And we need to get rid of it."

The commission, however, also voted 7-0 to close Defense Finance and Accounting Service offices in Kettering and 19 other locations, leaving open sites in Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis,, Arlington, Va., Limestone, Maine and Rome, N.Y. Originally, all the centers were to have been merged into three megasites in Columbus, Indianapolis and Denver.

The vote was good news for Cleveland, which stood to lose 1,100 jobs under the original proposal. Instead, the commission voted to keep "not less than 1,500" full-time jobs at the Cleveland site in the consolidation.

Skinner applauded saving the Cleveland site, saying that office is responsible for the payment and reimbursement for the Guard and Reserve serving in theater.

"This amendment ensures that those families and soldiers, sailors and airmen in the theater have their accounting taken care of correctly," he said.

But, for Kettering, the news was bad.

"This is a particularly strong blow to the City of Kettering, which still hasn't recovered the jobs it lost when the 1993 BRAC Commission closed the old (Defense Electronics Supply Center.) Some of the BRAC commission members were clearly sympathetic to communities like Kettering, which are suffering from a double hit," Nauseef said. "Unfortunately, a majority didn't see it that way."

The DFAS offices are in a building formerly occupied by the supply center. The overall site is now the Kettering Business Park.

"Kettering still maintains a tremendous opportunity for gains" from incoming work, Nauseef said. He said the coalition recommends the business park be used as a "staging site" for the jobs coming to Wright-Patterson.

The commission also supported a proposal to consolidate civilian personnel offices across the Defense Department, including the office at Wright-Patterson. But the commission altered the recommendation, relocating only transactional functions at the office and leaving non-transactional functions necessary to support Wright-Patterson at that base.

The original recommendation would have shipped out an estimated 235 jobs from Wright-Pat. Community leaders Thursday were unsure how many jobs would now be affected.

The commission also modified but ultimately approved a plan to bring missions from Brooks City-Base in San Antonio to Wright-Patterson.

The Defense recommendation would have moved five of the base's missions to Wright-Patterson, but Commissioner Sue Ellen Turner introduced an amendment that would instead send two of those five missions — the Naval Health Research Center Electro-Magnetic Energy Detachment and the Human Effectiveness Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory— to Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Turner argued that the two missions need to be located with a similar Army-directed energy research mission so the three services could continue to work together as they had in San Antonio.

Her amendment would mean 100 fewer jobs would move to Wright-Patterson, but James Leftwich of the Dayton Development Coalition, said the community still stood to gain about 900 jobs from the move.

The commission's votes are considered preliminary until the commission concludes its proceedings at the end of the week. After that, they will go to the president, who can only accept or reject the list in its entirety. If he approves it, it will then go to Congress for approval or rejection before heading back to the president for final passage.

By Jessica Wehrman and Timothy R. Gaffney

DaytonDailyNewsWright

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