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Leigh Allan: Saving AFIT on vacation
Posted: 09/20/2005 by AFIT Public Affairs

Dang. If only the South China Sea had been more BRACkish, we could have avoided the flap over the future of the Air Force Institute of Technology. Heck, we might even have ended up with a nice naval shipyard across from RiverScape. Maybe an Army fort in the Arcade. Unfortunately, my wife, son and I weren't BRACcidental tourists long enough to ensure Dayton win big in Base Realignment and Closure decisions. But at least we avoided possible BRAClash whilst cruising around Asia this month.

Our dining tablemates didn't show up for dinner the first night out of Bangkok, when many passengers were jet-lagged. When they also missed nights two and three, we figured they'd either missed the boat or heard about my table manners.
But night four, they made it. First came Honey, the mom, and sons Sam and Will. There was instant rapport because they're from Chicago, as is Kathy, and Honey's an attorney whose clients include the hospital where Kathy and our daughter Leslie were born. Plus, the boys, both very nice, play Little League and Will and I are baseball nuts.

Then came Dad, also named Sam. Mom had hinted Dad was a bit of a big shot. She said they might have to cut their vacation short because he's a BRAC commissioner and might have to fly back for a meeting.

Being ignorant of BRAC member bios, I asked how he got on the commission. Turned out to he'd been secretary of transportation and, briefly, chief of staff for President Bush. That could have made for a tense political chat or two, but he served Bush the elder, the one easy to like and respect.

Then Sam — fading memory needed a Web search to learn he's Sam Skinner, a Chicago notable when I worked there and a man with a reputation as both a decent sort and a pragmatist, not an ideologue — went into some more personal history, including his stint as U.S. attorney for Northern Illinois. That led to discovery of mutual pals, so we were bonding even before Sam said he grew up near North Central College, where Will's headed, and I learned he was picked for BRAC by NCC alum House Speaker Dennis Hastert. When we said we're from Dayton, Skinner immediately said our area had fared well with BRAC, true enough in the big picture, though not necessarily if you work for Defense Finance in Kettering. That was before the commission raised questions about AFIT, so there seemed no reason to suffer a military-industrial complex. Instead, I envisioned 15 days of cleverly building support to move most of the U.S. military our way.

The only conflict I envisioned was that, given their North Shore residency and socio-economic status, the Skinners are probably Cub fans. In the best (so far) White Sox season in a century or two, it would be hard for Sox fans not to rub it in, but we'd have to try.

Alas, my military campaign got cut short the next day, when the Skinners got off in Singapore so Sam could make the meeting where AFIT became a possible BRAC target. Now, he's set to be one of the two commissioners coming to Wright-Pat on Tuesday to probe and be probed.

Still, I may have intelligence helpful to those who host that visit. At our one dinner together, Sam went with the flounder. And ice cream for dessert.

Contact Leigh Allan at or 225-7317.
By Leigh Allan

Dayton Daily News

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