A Miami Valley state lawmaker will lead a task force to explore what Ohio can do to bolster the military value of Defense Department installations across the state that could face closure if Congress or the Pentagon pursue a round of base closures.
State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, was named chairman of the Task Force on BRAC and Military Affairs,
Perales, who was appointed to the post by House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said the task force continues to add members as it prepares to launch in the coming weeks.
He said it expects to visit military installations across Ohio to learn more about both their economic impact and national security roles.
The launch of the task force will happen in the midst of the talk in Washington, D.C., for the need to close excess bases and realign missions, a prospect some say has grown with a new administration in the White House and a push from the military to close bases and move missions. By 2019, the Army and the Air Force will have a third more space than needed, a Pentagon assessment has concluded.
“We recognize we have to stay on top and make sure we have that issue in our sights so that when something is announced, if and when it is announced, we don’t have to scamper,” said Perales, a retired Air Force major who was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “We’re ready to rock and roll. We already have things moving.”
Perales said the task force will assess both the economic and national security impact of military installations and NASA Glenn Research Center near Cleveland.
One of the task force’s roles will determine the infrastructure needs of the facilities, he said.
State lawmakers set aside $5 million to pay for infrastructure improvements as a hedge against a future round of federal base closures.
The Ohio Military Facilities Commission recently selected two Air National Guard bases, one in Toledo, the other in Mansfield, for $2.5 million each in state funding for building and taxiway construction projects.
Wright-Patterson, which submitted four projects, didn’t walk away with financial support, and Perales said the process might need to be “tweaked” if Ohio provides another round of funding. He has asked for another $5 million to be added to the state budget.
In the last BRAC round in 2005, Wright-Patterson had a net gain of more than 1,000 new jobs with the relocation of the 711th Human Performance Wing, including the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, to the base from Texas.
“The odds of a new round of base closures being approved over the next two years is higher now that Senator (John) McCain said he would consider it, but the odds still remain relatively low,” said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. McCain, an Arizona Republican, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Even so, Harrison added in an email, Wright-Patterson would be “relatively safe because of the unique capabilities (it) provides for the Air Force that would be difficult to replicate at another location.” He added it would not make sense for the state to spend money at a facility that is not likely to be a target.
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