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Fears grow as shutdown deadline nears

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 5:00 AM


            This Jan. 3, 2018, file photo shows the Capitol in Washington. The government is financed through Friday, Jan. 19, and another temporary spending bill is needed to prevent a partial government shutdown after that. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
            J. Scott Applewhite
This Jan. 3, 2018, file photo shows the Capitol in Washington. The government is financed through Friday, Jan. 19, and another temporary spending bill is needed to prevent a partial government shutdown after that. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(J. Scott Applewhite)

President Donald Trump and Congress appear to be careening toward a partial shutdown of the federal government, though lawmakers expressed some hope Tuesday they can at least approve a temporary spending bill that would keep the government running beyond the Friday deadline.

It’s far from a sure bet, though, and there are growing fears the government will partly close for the first time since a two-week shutdown in 2013. Thousands of civilian employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force were furloughed during those two weeks as the federal installation went into partial shutdown mode.

Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees — the vast majority of whom are civilians — and touts a regional economic impact greater than $4 billion.

RELATED: Temporary funding prevents shutdown but hurts military, officials say

Michael Gessel, vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition, said “it is increasingly difficult to predict what Congress will do and the predictions change almost on an hour-by-hour basis. There is similarly a very high level of uncertainty and we will not really know until the next few days what the chances are.”

“I know it grows tiresome to hear, but yes, the bickering and intransigence between the parties appears to be growing and making legislation more difficult,” Gessel added.

Prior to 2013, the most recent government shutdown was during a three-week period in 1995 and 1996.

Major fallout

The fallout from any shutdown damages national security, wastes money, and impacts employee morale, Gessel said.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, predicted Congress will approve another temporary spending bill.

But in an e-mail Tuesday, he warned that a “shutdown remains a real possibility,” adding that “Congress will eventually get to a budget deal, but it may take a few more weeks or months.”

RELATED: Lack of defense budget raising concerns at Wright-Patterson

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions, would close until a funding deal is reached, a spokesman has said.

Divided Congress

The two parties are squabbling over whether to increase defense spending, find money to build a wall or increase security along the Mexican border as demanded by Trump, and an insistence by Democrats that any spending measure provide legal guarantees for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.

While there appears little appetite in the Senate to shut down the government, the House is deeply divided. With Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid shielded from potential reductions through a 2013 law aimed at controlling spending, lawmakers are arguing about how to spend roughly $1.1 trillion in what is known as discretionary spending — money Congress needs to appropriate every year.

A number of Republicans such as Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton are demanding more than the $549 billion for defense than is permitted under 2018 federal spending year guidelines. In return, Democrats want to spend more on domestic programs than the $516 billion allowed in 2018.

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In a conference call with Ohio reporters Tuesday, Portman said in a private meeting last week with Senate Republicans, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis “painted a pretty dismal picture about our preparedness.”

“We do have a situation right now with more and more responsibilities overseas,” Portman said. “We have to have additional defense spending.”

Portman said he has talked to people at Wright-Patt who are concerned about a shutdown. “I think it is really important to figure out to move forward without a government shutdown,” he said.

No relationship building

Looming in the background is the concern about the impact a shutdown could have on this year’s congressional elections. With Trump’s popularity remaining around 40 percent in most polls, GOP analysts already fear they could lose the Senate and House in November.

Daniel R. Birdsong, a University of Dayton political science lecturer, predicted a shutdown is unlikely “because of the political question of who gets blamed for this.”

RELATED: State leaders tour Wright-Patterson as they explore how to protect bases

But Wright State University economics professor Evan Osborne said a shutdown is likely because he doesn’t expect Trump to budge on the “single most important” issue to his base: illegal immigration.

“He ran on ‘build the wall’” and curbing illegal immigration, Osborne said. “I don’t really see him giving on that.”

Adding to the unpredictability is the combativeness between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of relationship building between the Congress and the White House on big ticket items like immigration and tax reform,” Birdsong said.

In a sign that both parties are prepared to blame the other, Blaine Kelly, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, took direct aim at Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, saying Brown “would be wise not to hold military funding hostage, but instead support a common sense compromise to keep the government open.”

RELATED: Air Force pilot shortage growing, top leaders say

For his part Brown, who is seeking re-election to a third term in November, said “there is no reason for a government shutdown. Congress needs to come together and do its job.”

‘We follow a very deliberative process’

Military leaders — including at Wright-Patterson — tend to decry temporary spending measures. They say they lower combat readiness, prevent the start of new programs, cap spending at last year’s levels and don’t eliminate reductions under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said the base has not received guidelines on who would be exempt from a furlough.

“We follow a very deliberative process and guidelines to determine what services, if any, would be suspended during any government shutdown,” he wrote in an email.

The last time the base shut down, active-duty military personnel stayed on the job.

Among civilians, exemptions were made for personnel involved with the protection of life or property, such as police, fire, medical services and airfield operations.

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Top Gun pilot to speak at film screening

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 6:04 PM


            The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF

A real-life Top Gun is scheduled to be at a screening of Top Gun 3D at the Air Force Museum Theatre.

Retired Navy Capt. Ken Ginader, a former Top Gun instructor and F-14 pilot, was set to speak at the screening of film, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Ginader is the first speaker in the 2018 Living History Film Series at the museum.

Tickets cost $12 for audience members, or $10 for members of Friends of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

For more information, click onto http://www.afmuseum.com/livinghistory .

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Wright-Patt training exercise sets off booms

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 3:22 PM


            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
            STAFF/File
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base(STAFF/File)

If you heard a loud noise today at Wright-Patterson, it was all part of training, a base spokesman says.

The Dayton Daily News and News Center 7 were contacted by residents inquiring what was the cause of the explosion.

A Wright-Patterson Explosive Ordnance Disposal bomb squad was scheduled to set off three explosions between noon and 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer.

The unit periodically sets off explosions in training which are often heard outside the base.

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Book chronicles heroism of war correspondents like OSU’s Cecil Brown

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:49 PM

As he scanned the names of the past winners of the Peabody award for broadcast journalism, Reed Smith, a professor of journalism at Georgia Southern University, came across the name Cecil Brown of CBS and admitted he “had never heard of him before.”

It began a four-year effort by Smith that culminated last November in the release of his book, “Cecil Brown: The Murrow Boy Who Became Broadcasting’s Crusader for Truth.” It’s the story of an Ohio State University student from 1929 who reached the pinnacle of broadcast journalism during World War II and the era of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

Smith became fascinated with Brown’s story and it is easy to see why. As a CBS Radio broadcaster in Singapore in December 1941 he nearly lost his life when Japanese torpedo bombers sank the British battlecruiser Repulse in the South China Sea. Brown was a correspondent on the Repulse.

His gripping minute-by-minute account of the disaster for CBS, which also included the destruction of the British battleship Prince of Wales, earned him the Peabody award and transformed him into one of the best-known correspondents of World War II.

“There were upwards of a thousand sailors who died during that attack,” Smith said. “He was not wounded during attack and fortunately was able to get off the ship. A British sailor reached out in the water off a Carley Float and grabbed him. Cecil thought he had just about had it. It was pretty miraculous.”

Brown also was known for his legendary battles with Italian and British censors in World II as they tried to block or alter his broadcasts, prompting Smith to describe Brown as “very feisty. He was a big First Amendment guy and he became quite exasperated when anybody tried to curtail his freedom of the press.”

RELATED: Cecil Brown’s obituary

For Smith, 68, it was a case of one Ohio man meeting another. Smith, a graduate of Ohio University who earned an M.A. from Bowling Green and then a Ph.D from Ohio University, grew up in New Concord. Brown, who died in 1987, was raised in Warren, married a woman from Columbus who is still alive in Los Angeles at age 104.

He left Ohio State nine hours short of a degree in 1929 and worked as a reporter for a number of years before Edward R. Murrow hired him at CBS Radio in 1940 and assigned him to cover the war from Rome.

Brown reported in an entirely different era than today when journalists are under relentless attacks from President Donald Trump and many conservatives.

“It tells us the public view of journalism has changed drastically over the past 70 years,” Smith said. “Murrow and Cecil were seen as heroes. They were brave men in the war zone telling the truth for what was going on and continuing to get in trouble for telling the truth.”

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Work to start next month on $10.5 million Wright-Patt gateway

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 5:30 PM


            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 16A, a commercial truck screening checkpoint, will be consolidated with a new Gate 26A in 2019 in a $10.5 million construction project. JIM WITMER | 2011 STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Jim Witmer
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Gate 16A, a commercial truck screening checkpoint, will be consolidated with a new Gate 26A in 2019 in a $10.5 million construction project. JIM WITMER | 2011 STAFF FILE PHOTO(Jim Witmer)

A new $10.5 million gateway that will consolidate two Wright-Patterson entrances into one is set to begin construction next month, a base spokesman says.

A new Gate 26A, a few hundred yards from the current one, would replace a commercial delivery entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, and the existing Gate 26A off Ohio 235 near the entrance to the 445th Airlift Wing headquarters.

The new entrance way off Ohio 235 will be sited between Sandhill Road and Circle Drive, according to Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer.

Work was scheduled for completion at the end of next year, the base said.

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