U.S. has let defense industry demise go too far, local owner says

Published: Friday, August 04, 2017 @ 8:40 AM

Kettering defense contractor watching White House stance on defense parts outsourcing

When Rick Little met presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign stop in Dayton last September, Little brought up his concern about the shrinking U.S. defense industrial base.

“To me, it’s always been an issue that we’ve let so much of our industry go,” said Little, president of Starwin Industries in Kettering that makes parts to keep aging military jets flying.

President Trump, who aggressively campaigned in the Midwest manufacturing belt railing against U.S. trade policy and a loss of U.S. factory jobs, signed an executive order last month to assess the nation’s defense industrial base, including manufacturing capacity and workforce development skill gaps.

White House officials said the assessment, due in 270 days since Trump signed the order, was a “whole-of-government” review involving the departments of Defense, Labor, Commerce, Energy and others to assess the health of manufacturing and the defense industrial base, and the most comprehensive look since the Eisenhower administration.

Since 2001, the U.S. has lost more than 60,000 factories and five million manufacturing jobs, according to Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

“Certain types of military-grade semiconductors and printed circuit boards have become endangered species,” Navarro told reporters in a recent briefing. “Flat panel displays for aircraft and the processing of rare earth elements have left our shores entirely.”

EXCLUSIVE: Top Air Force general says ‘all programs are at risk’

‘Pulling out of a tailspin’

Now is “exactly the right time” for the defense and manufacturing study after sequestration-imposed spending reductions, said Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“We are just now pulling out of a tailspin, nose dive called sequestration which wreaked havoc on defense spending in general, but in particular wreaked havoc on the spending that Department of Defense does with its industrial base,” Hunter said.

Defense contract obligations reached a peak at $442 billion in 2008, which declined to $278 billion in 2015, or a drop of more than a third as judged in constant 2016 dollars, according to Hunter.

“Industry has borne a disproportionate share of the Department of Defense and that is obviously alarming if you care about the industrial base,” he added.

Defense experts cited concerns about finding skilled workers, potential vulnerabilities in the supply chain, and access to raw materials and components.

“We’ve lost some capabilities over the years through going offshore, through bad economies, through a changing industry base,” said Lloyd Fields, chief executive officer of defense contractor BasTech in Vandalia.

RELATED: Military must focus on technology, Wright-Patt top general says

The defense supply chain needs a better understanding of where components come from, said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore, former commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“One of the biggest risks is if you don’t know where all the components are coming from there is always the risk that either by malicious intent or not somebody could introduce either firmware or software into a system that could compromise the capability of the system,” he said.

The retired three-star general cited cyber security vulnerabilities in the defense industry as a major concern.

Who was hit hardest

Sequestration had a bigger impact in some areas of the defense sector than others, according to CSIS research.

“There are pockets of weakness in the industrial base, but it’s not uniform across all sectors,” Hunter said.

CSIS’s own assessment, still under way, showed “really severe and profound” impacts on Army acquisition of land vehicles, and a “whipsawing” effect in the aviation industry “that probably merits some investigation,” Hunter said.

After a downturn, Congress has upped the budget for the Air Force, he said.

Navy shipbuilding had the most stability on turbulent defense budget waters in recent years, Hunter said.

Commercial supply chains bolster the defense industrial base in some areas, but certain categories, such as building nuclear-powered submarines, are so specialized that there may be only one supplier, he added.

RELATED: AF Secretary in exclusive interview talks about BRAC, security threats

Little said the federal government has heightened regulation and oversight of contracts to curb costs as spending caps have squeezed the defense budget.

Keeping aging weapon systems like the F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jets flying is harder over time. Starwin, where defense contracts account for about half the company’s business, makes radomes that cover the radar in each aircraft. “Things that were common 40 years ago are difficult to find now so it adds to the costs,” Little said.

He is concerned parts manufactured for U.S. weapons in other countries could be withheld, and foreign suppliers or countries may be prompted to act because they disagree with U.S. actions.

“To me, it just shows a vulnerability,” said Little, past chairman of the Dayton Region Manufacturing Association.

Still, Hunter said there is a drawback if the nation relies solely on domestic suppliers in the defense base.

“The other factor is if you cut yourself entirely from international supply chains you’ve sacrificed some real significant capability,” Hunter said. “In the ‘60s, we could rest comfortable in the knowledge that the U.S. was essentially the cutting-edge leader in almost every significant area of defense-related technology in the world. That is not nearly as true today as it used to be. There are areas where other countries have the lead.”

In most cases, those technology leaders represent U.S. allies, he said.

Dayton’s defense industry

The Dayton area defense industry is recovering and “showing signs of strengthening” after the Great Recession and spending caps imposed under sequestration, according to David A. Burke, president of the Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association.

The defense industry has always had boom and bust cycles, experts said. But the region appears “to be past the low point and on the rise,” Burke said in an email.

“There were tough times during the low point of the recession and cuts, with some industry consolidation and contraction,” he wrote. “There are 10 to 20 (percent) fewer defense contractors in the region now, and the last base realignment and closure did not bring as many jobs as projected. But, research and development budgets have remained stable with modest growth, helping the community innovate and opening some opportunities for expansion.”

One shortcoming, Burke said, is “the marked increase of lowest price technically acceptable contract competitions” that have “reduced quality and innovation in many areas.” The industry is working to improve the situation, he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Dayton was a “critical defense hub” for the country. Turner, chairman of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, has Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in his congressional district.

“I’ve worked for years with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the surrounding communities to ensure we are bolstering our nation’s defense capacity,” he said in a statement to this newspaper. “I welcome this study on a national level to see how our country’s broader defense needs can be fulfilled most effectively. The first step towards rebuilding readiness should be quickly repealing the sequester of defense, which I will continue to advocate for in Congress.”

More local spending

In recent years, the Air Force has touted higher spending on local small businesses that has lifted area firms.

RELATED: Air Force redirects more money to small businesses

In one example, Air Force Research Laboratory obligations paid over several years to Ohio companies grew from $400.2 million in fiscal year 2013 to $552.6 million last year, according to the Dayton Development Coalition.

Much of that work is in the Dayton region.

AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson, the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 employees and an estimated $4.3 billion economic impact.

RELATED: Wright-Patt economic impact on region up to $4.3 billion a year

Area defense contractors that work with the AFRL have maintained or grown their workforce, said John Ingham, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of aerospace programs.

“I believe if the defense budget is maintained or increased that will translate into additional jobs specifically in small businesses” that support aeronautical research and development, he said.

The area, a leading aerospace hub, has the fourth highest number of engineers per capita in the United States, he noted.

“… This region is ideally positioned to grow with increasing research and development dollars within the (Department of Defense) budget because of the brain power we have here,” he said.

The number of private sector civilian aerospace and defense workers in a 16-county region in and around the Dayton, Springfield and the Middletown-Hamilton area grew overall in a decade, according to a Wright State University Applied Policy Research Institute analysis.

In 2005, the region had 17,296 jobs in the category that grew to 18,751 jobs a decade later, the analysis showed. Projections estimate the number of jobs will reach 21,982 by 2025.

Among federal defense and government workers, the numbers showed growth initially, followed by a slight decline over the next decade.

The institute analysis estimated 26,727 federal civilian and military jobs in 2005 and 27,908 jobs a decade later. It projected 27,481 federal jobs in the region by 2025.

RELATED: Ohio leaders say funding will help protect Wright-Patt

Workforce gaps

Finding skilled workers in some specialties can be difficult, industry experts said.

Recruiting and hiring a software engineer with a top secret security clearance can take nearly two years at one local defense firm, a top company leader says, who noted waiting on the high-level security clearance alone can take more than 500 days.

There is such a demand hiring a software engineer quickly would mean hiring from another company, creating a gap somewhere else, said Scott Coale, executive vice president of defense services at Modern Technology Solutions, Inc., which conducts defense modeling and analysis at its Beavercreek office.

“We compete with Amazon, we compete with Microsoft” to attract those skilled workers, said Coale, a retired colonel and former vice commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson.

“I think that’s our biggest challenge here locally is to find that skilled workforce.”

RELATED: How can Ohio keep federal, military jobs?

Moore, a member of the Wright State University Board of Trustees, said area colleges and universities focus on preparing workers for manufacturing and small businesses in the defense industry.

The industry has worked locally with universities and community-based science, technology, engineering and math education initiatives to attempt to fill STEM jobs, Burke said.

But the region needs more graduates with security clearance credentials to meet demand, some said.

“We are not graduating enough students in science and engineering eligible to obtain security clearances,” Burke said.

Unmatched coverage

The Dayton Daily News is committed to in-depth coverage of defense and manufacturing, two key drivers of the Miami Valley economy. For more military news, like Dayton Daily News reporter Barrie Barber’s DDN Facebook page and follow him on twitter at @barriebarber.

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Ohio senator tweets his frustration during tarmac delay

Published: Wednesday, April 04, 2018 @ 11:59 AM

State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, while not stuck on a plane. FILE
State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, while not stuck on a plane. FILE

Ohio Sen. Bill Beagle was stuck aboard a plane on an airport runway Tuesday evening — and he was not happy about the situation at all.

The Tipp City Republican tweeted about his predicament, and his frustration came through loud and clear.

“Been trapped on @AmericanAir 3542 for two hours on the tarmac in Syracuse,” Beagle tweeted about 15 hours ago. “No end in sight. Send help.”

MOREChinese tariffs hit Ohio farmers where it hurts 

Then he added the hashtag: “#neverflyAmerican.”

When American Airlines at one point tweeted, “Sorry for the wait tonight. Looks like there’s some air traffic delays in ORD. We’ll have you in the air ASAP,” Beagle responded: “Liars.”

“Just take us back to the gate so we can rebook tomorrow w/ @Delta,” Beagle wrote.

“ORD” is the airport designation for Chicago’s O’Hare International, which once was known as “Orchard Field.”

At another point, the senator tweeted that he was entering his third hour stuck on the tarmac.

“Beginning third hour onboard @AmericanAir 3542 in Syracuse. They won’t let us off or tell us anything. Just waiting for O’Hare to clear. We could apparently wait here for hours w/ no food or anything. #neverflyAmerican.”

Three hours is too long, according to U.S. Department of Transportation standards.

“For flights departing from a U.S. airport, airlines are required to begin to move the airplane to a location where passengers can safely get off before 3 hours for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights,” the federal department says on its web site.

Reached Wednesday, Beagle said he and his fellow passengers were on the plane for more than three hours. He said they finally got to Chicago about 11 p.m. or midnight local time.

“I don’t know when that meter starts running,” the senator said, when asked about DOT tarmac delay standards.

He finally returned to Dayton this morning after managing to get a flight to Columbus from Chicago, for which he thanked American.

“God bless the people at American; they worked with me to get me on to the flight to Columbus,” he said.

There, Beagle said his wife was able to pick him up and he retrieved his car from Dayton International.

He finally pulled into his garage in Tipp City (near Dayton International) after 3 a.m. Wednesday. Some of his events for Wednesday were cancelled, but that was because he thought initially he would be stuck in Chicago overnight.

“We’re trying to pick up the pieces,” he said Wednesday.

The senator said flight attendants allowed passengers to use cell phones and left the plane door unsealed during the layover. At one point, cookies were passed out.

Beagle said he had no issues with any of the people on board, including the flight attendants. “I tried to give compliments to American,” in a private message on Twitter, he said.

He has left his tweets up on his Twitter page.

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5 tips on breaking into animated film from an award-winning animator

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 12:58 PM

The following strategies can help fast track a creative career with top animation studios and teams across the nation Networking with successful alumni Putting yourself out there Showing brands you're a problem solver Sticking to your design guns Making them love you and your artistic abilities

If you've seen a lot of animated films and commercials, you might have come across the work of award-winning animator and illustrator Kurt Guard. His knack for creating cutting-edge visual effects for short- and feature-length films, TV campaigns and personal projects is what lands him animation gigs with top-tier brands like BET Networks, based in New York, and Caribbean Broadcasting Network in Hollywood.

»RELATED: Animated shows with Atlanta roots

"I grew up with a drawing pencil and sketchbook in my hand," said the seasoned multimedia animator based in Atlanta. "My gift for seeing something interesting, drawing it with the right amount of detail then bringing it to digital life is what got me into creative media. My precision and consistency is what led to collaborations with big brands and industry names I would have never imagined - and I have a huge imagination."

Kurt Guard is an award-winning, Atlanta-based animator who has collaborated with national networks like BET and with creative genius and director Jai Anthony Lewis Husband of Disney's 'The Lion King.'(Photo by Suhyoon Cho/For the AJC)

At the tail end of earning a fine arts degree at Georgia State University, he came upon an opportunity any art student would dream of: The chance to work with award-winning director Jai Anthony Lewis Husband, who is known for his work on Disney's "The Lion King."

The opportunity jump started Guard's animation career and led to his receiving NAACP Image Awards for best children's program for 2012’s “Kasha and the Zulu King”.

"I couldn't say 'no' to an opportunity to create with Jai," said Guard. "I just couldn't."

Until that big break comes for up-and-coming film artists, Guard recommends the following strategies to help fast track a creative career with top animation studios and teams across the nation:

Networking with successful alumni

"There's something to attending the same university as famous or influential alumni that instantly creates a special bond with them," said Guard. "Sometimes it's as simple as going to class reunions and alumni galas or becoming friends on social media with classmates that will help connect the professional dots of breaking into the industry." Guard knows colleagues who now work on Marvel, Nickelodeon, FX and Tyler Perry Studios productions, but notes, "It's one thing to know these industry professionals, but you also need to know how to gain sincere access to them." 

»RELATED: How to get a job at the Tyler Perry Studios

Putting yourself out there

Right after the artist Prince passed away in 2016, Guard developed a personal piece as a tribute to the musical mastermind. That illustration caught a colleague's attention, who reached out to Guard and got him in touch with award-winning TV producer Marsha Parker of BET's spin-off network Centric (now called BET Her). 

"It happened that fast," said Guard. "She taught me about the importance of staying on top of tight deadlines and ready for roadblocks." 

Guard highly recommends students commit to "passion projects" in order to generate a buzz with colleagues and creative producers.

"Passion projects are your best artwork - that are right up your talent-level alley and showcases your artistic range," he said. "For instance, if you're passionate about pop culture, political cartoons or celebrity pencil portraits, do that often and use social media to push your artwork to colleagues and industry gatekeepers."

Showing brands you're a problem solver

"If you want to work for Pixar, DreamWorks or Warner Bros., you have to do your research," Guard said. "Your work needs to reflect what that brand is producing. Then, you have to figure out what's missing. What's your 'wow-factor' that can amplify their mission and the direction they're heading into." When pitching projects to potential clients, Guard develops original, animated demos that will pique interest but also identify with the brands he wants to collaborate with. "After studying my favorite creative studios, I propose how I can help improve what they're currently producing as if I'm already a member of the team," he said. "That shows hiring executives and producers I'm serious about contributing to something great."

(Courtesy of BET Networks)

Sticking to your design guns

"Once you get that callback from high-profile production companies, you may start to think you have to go way beyond your design capabilities to continue to impress creative employers," said Guard. "You don't.”

Guard advises the talent that got you to the door is exactly what you need at the design table. Even on high-budget, stressful assignments, Guard suggests remaining composed and innovative with ideas to keep the design process flowing. 

Making them love you and your artistic abilities

"Research is so important, which is something students should never take for granted," said Guard. "Before stepping foot onto any production team, understand the organizational structure, office politics and the ones who are the true movers and shakers to get creative projects off the ground." Once that's established, Guard says your design work can shine through much easier. "When you know who and what you're dealing with for projects, it's a breeze to get your part approved and done before deadline," he said. "You have time to factor in design barriers and still turn out your best work. I'm telling you: When you're producing tight work that inspires and makes your team members' job as trouble-free as possible, the high-profile projects will keep heading your way."


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Mikesell’s must pay nearly $240,000 in backpay, NLRB says

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 9:58 AM

An ever popular regional brand, Mikesell’s potato chips can be found at most local groceries. LISA POWELL / STAFF
An ever popular regional brand, Mikesell’s potato chips can be found at most local groceries. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The National Labor Relations Board is backing a federal judge’s order that Dayton potato chip producer Mikesell’s Potato Chip Co. pay nearly $240,000 in backpay to union drivers and warehouse workers.

The March 7 ruling adopts an earlier recommended order of an administrative law judge.

The order totals $239,888.61, plus interest and backpay, to route sales drivers, over-the-road drivers and warehouse employees, named in a two-and-one-half page list — a list that identifies each worker and the amount each worker is owed.

RELATEDMikesell’s ordered to pay $239K in back-pay to workers

The case  goes back to 2012.

In October 2017, U.S. Administrative Law Judge David Goldman wrote that a contract with Mikesell’s warehouse employees expired Oct. 26, 2012, while another contract covering the drivers expired Nov. 17 that same year.

Just one day after the drivers’ contract expired, “Mikesell’s announced that the parties were at a bargaining impasse over both units and that effective Nov. 19, 2012, it would unilaterally implement its bargaining proposals,” Goldman noted in his ruling.

RELATEDTeamsters, NLRB sue Mikesell’s

The unions took issue with Mikesell’s declaration of an impasse. They filed an unfair labor practice charge, and in January 2014, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that “Mikesell’s unilateral implementation of its bargaining offers in the absence of impasse violated” the National Labor Relations Act.

Union lawyers asked that the company “restore, honor and continue the terms of the expired collective-bargaining agreements,” the judge wrote, adding: “Mikesell’s declined to do so.”

That led to the company’s petition to a federal Court of Appeals, which denied the company’s request in December 2015.

It appears a battle over back-pay then began, involving the company, the unions and an NLRB regional office. More than three years after the contracts expired, Goldman wrote, “the respondent (Mikesell’s) contends that it had reached a third bargaining impasse with the union in negotiations, one not previously mentioned to the board or to the Court of Appeals, although it allegedly occurred June 13, 2013.”

A message seeking comment was sent to Jennifer Asbrock, the Louisville, Ky. attorney who has represented the Dayton company before the NLRB.

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Former blighted Englewood hotel property sells for  $1.2 million

Published: Sunday, March 04, 2018 @ 10:29 AM

This land at 1212 S. Main St. in Englewood recently sold for nearly $1.2 million. It had been the site of Englewood Inn, until last year. 
This land at 1212 S. Main St. in Englewood recently sold for nearly $1.2 million. It had been the site of Englewood Inn, until last year. 

The disputed property of a former blighted hotel off Interstate 70 just sold for nearly $1.2 million, Montgomery County property records show.

Springtime Investments LLC bought about two parcels consisting of nearly four acres total — .35 of an acre of land and an additional 3.2 acres — at 1212 S. Main St. in Englewood for $1.175 million from Nuwin Realty LLC.

The site once was home to Englewood Inn, a hotel that was demolished a year ago after years of fighting over the site between Nuwin Realty and the city of Englewood. 

RELATED: Kettering manufacturing property sells for $2.15 million.

Bill Singer, Englewood development director, did not know Friday who the end user might be for the land. But he said city leaders have high hopes for the area.

The land is zoned “C-4” for commercial, administrative offices, sales, service and industrial uses. It’s highly visible for motorists coming off the interstate, Singer noted.

He said no one has approached the city yet with a development plan for the site.

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“This is one of the most bizarre things. … I’m glad it actually sold. I’m surprised it went that high,” Singer said.

That property has been under contract for a while, but he didn’t know with whom.

Tearing down the inn at that site “was a great win for the city,” Singer said.

Springtime Investments LLC was incorporated in Dayton two years ago to acquire commercial real estate, according to an Ohio Secretary of State filing.

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