Temporary funding prevents shutdown, but hurts military, officials say

Published: Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

            Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees are among those affected by Congress when legislators continue to pass temporary funding measures, local experts say. STAFF
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base employees are among those affected by Congress when legislators continue to pass temporary funding measures, local experts say. STAFF(STAFF/File)

For the third time since September, Congress temporarily agreed to a stopgap funding measure to avoid a partial federal government shutdown at midnight Friday that would have impacted thousands of civilian workers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

But the temporary spending measures have hamstrung the Defense Department through lost training of troops — impacting readiness for war — and cost more for renegotiated contracts, officials said.

The latest deadline gives Congress until Jan. 19 to reach a defense appropriations budget or face the prospect of a partial shutdown, which last occurred in 2013.

Congress has authorized a $700 billion defense bill, but has not yet passed legislation to fund it. The bill would lift spending reductions, called sequestration, imposed under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

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

Both the House and the Senate were able to send a bill late Thursday to President Donald Trump temporarily funding the government, but the Senate decided to kick an $81 billion bill to pay for disaster relief to next year. The House approved that relief earlier Thursday.

The overall spending bill included a $2.85 billion down payment aimed at keeping the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program running as well as reauthorizing federal surveillance powers.

‘Waste money’

The stopgap spending deals, known as continuing resolutions that cap spending at the prior fiscal year’s level, create unpredictability and uncertainty and waste money until a final defense budget is funded, analysts said.

“Continuing resolutions waste money because spending plans cannot be matched to needs in a timely fashion,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior analyst with Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

“It’s an abdication of congressional responsibility to provide the armed forces with adequate time to plan to spend its fund as smartly as possible,” Mark Thompson, a national security analyst with the Project On Government Oversight in Washington, D.C., said in an email. “Lord knows, the Pentagon needs all the help it can get in doing that, and Congress isn’t helping.”

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U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said the ongoing stopgap measures have a “devastating” effect on the military. Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted for the latest extension to avoid a shutdown, but hopes it will provide time to negotiate a two-year defense budget deal and set aside sequestration through 2020.

The Dayton congressman advocates moving the start of the budget year, which begins Oct. 1, to match the calendar year.

“Congress is always going to get its work done at the end of the year, which is always going to leave our military at a disadvantage,” he said in an interview. “…We can by law just change (the start of the fiscal year) and suddenly end this agonizing four- or five-month continuing resolution that affects the military more difficultly.”

CR as the norm

Since fiscal year 2010, continuing resolutions have lasted an average of 128 days, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Security. Of those, the longest was 217 days in the 2017 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, followed by 197 days in 2011 and 177 in 2013, the center reported.

The military has warned congressional leaders of consequences to training, readiness and modernization, particularly after 90 days or longer without a fully funded defense budget.

“Long-term CRs impact the readiness of our forces and their equipment at a time when security threats are extraordinarily high,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrote in September to the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. “The longer the CR, the greater the consequences for our force.”

Among other impacts, the six-page letter cited lost or reduced training and canceled exercises; curbs on federal hiring and recruitment; impeding the Air Force’s ability to produce aviators; paying more money to rebid or renegotiate contracts; and hampering the “recovery of readiness” which “may prove fatal in a future conflict with major power adversaries.”

The lack of a defense budget and ongoing continuing resolutions have caused uncertainty at Wright-Patterson, Col. Bradley McDonald, installation commander, said in November.

“Every time we come to the latter part of one of these time lines, it causes part of our workforce to feel concerned, so we would hope to avoid that,” he said in an interview.

“This also hurts contractors who were planning on working on projects at Wright-Patterson,” said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs. “The continuing resolution creates a delay in maintenance and training and adds to administrative burdens.”

He added: “Congress’ failure in passing a spending bill has a cumulative effect on morale and creates a sense that it doesn’t give the Defense Department sufficient priority.”

RELATED: Congress passes stopgap spending bill to avert weekend shutdown

33 out of 42 years

The military has started the year under a continuing resolution 33 out of the past 42 years, a CSIS analysis found. CSIS also reported the Trump administration’s delivery of a proposed fiscal year 2018 budget on May 23 was the latest the White House has submitted one to Congress since the 1920s.

“Congress has not completed a federal budget in time for the start of the new fiscal years in the last 20 years,” Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said in an email. “The last time was 1997. The implication is that there is a structural deficit in the functioning of the government which needs to be fixed.”

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Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close today

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:14 AM

Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close

A major gateway will close at Wright-Patterson today for maintenance, impacting the travel of thousands of commuters.

Gate 19B off National Road will be closed from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer.

More than 5,700 inbound drivers travel through the entrance and nearly 6,300 drive off base through the gate every work day.

Crews will work on “routine maintenance” at the gateway, Mayer said.

RELATED: Wright-Patt gateway to close as part of security upgrade

“Since that (gate) is open 24/7 normally, they never have a chance to work on it,” he said.

Motorists may use Gates 1B off Springfield Street and Gate 22B off Interstate 675 as alternatives, according to Wright-Patterson.

Gate 19B had a major makeover last year with $1.3 million in upgrades that added overhead canopies, more guard booths and a barrier system, Wright-Patterson has said.

RELATED: Security concerns prompt Wright-Patt to close major gateway

The base closed Gate 26A off Ohio 235 because of security concerns this month. The gate, which had more than 5,000 vehicles a day, remains closed.

A new $10.5 million replacement gate, combining the current Gate 26A and the commercial truck entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, is due to open late next year.

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Air Force urged to pick Wright-Patterson for hundreds more jobs

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 5:10 PM

            The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
            Ty Greenlees
The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Wright-Patterson could add 400 jobs if Air Force leaders are persuaded by Ohio’s congressional delegation to locate a F-35 stealth fighter office to the Miami Valley base.

The Defense Department and the Air Force have not said how many bases are in contention for the F-35 Product Hybrid Support Integrator Organization. But Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Phil Parker said Wright-Patterson was likely “a top contender” for the Air Force jobs.

“I think it would be a real plus to our continued importance and growth inside the fence and even outside the fence with some of the contractors that might play a role in that development,” he said.

“I can’t speak to that it’s a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly makes a lot of sense with the capability we have” and the military and civilian workforce.

RELATED: Wright-Patt a contender to manage stealth fighter program

Parker said the Dayton Development Coalition is actively involved in working to attract the new jobs. Michael Gessel, Coalition vice president of federal programs, said he could not comment publicly.

Pentagon leaders have concurred with a report to create two separate offices — one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Marine Corps — to manage three different versions of the F-35. The Joint Program Office in Crystal City, Md., manages the program today which has been under development since 2001.

Wright-Patterson has an F-35 technical division office, but the additional jobs would add more responsibility for oversight and management.

“Wright-Patt is probably the only base in the entire Air Force where every single skill and competency relevant to the F-35 is already resident,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

RELATED: Spending plan could give boost to Wright-Patt

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the Ohio congressional delegation cited Wright-Patterson’s technical workforce, area universities and command headquarters among key factors to bring the jobs to the region.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, were among those who signed the letter.

“First, we make a good case and Wright-Patt is … the ideal place for this,” Brown, co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus, said in a brief interview Thursday.

The congressional delegation cited the acquisition headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, which manages aircraft programs, the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops new aircraft technologies, and the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which handles foreign sales, among reasons to locate the office at the base.

In a recent interview, Turner, whose district spans Wright-Patterson and is the chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said the base should “bode well” in the competition because of an experienced workforce managing aircraft programs and offices for foreign military sales.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson to get new base commander

Wright-Patterson has a “long legacy … of working on advanced aircraft” and is close to Washington, D.C., he added.

“It will be an easy transition if it comes to Dayton, Ohio,” he said then.

The Fighters and Bombers Directorate, which oversees management programs such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22, and the B-1, B-2 and B-52, is headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel. The base has an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.


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AF Thunderbirds return to practice, but more shows could be canceled

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 5:02 PM

            The U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds in the diamond formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show on Saturday, July 23, 2011. STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Ty Greenlees
The U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds in the diamond formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show on Saturday, July 23, 2011. STAFF FILE PHOTO(Ty Greenlees)

The Air Force Thunderbirds return to training over the Nevada desert Wednesday, but have not announced a date the demonstration team will return to the air show circuit, the team’s leader said.

The team had suspended flights and canceled public performances since a tragic April 4 crash killed Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno during practice over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

RELATED: Thunderbirds cancel more air show performances after deadly crash

“While our hearts are still heavy with the loss of our wingman Cajun, we know he’d want us back in the air and preparing to recruit, retain and inspire once more,” Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, team leader, said in a statement Wednesday.

“These flights will focus on maintaining our team’s proficiency with the demanding manuevers of our air demonstration,” Walsh added. “They will also strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks for the squadron.”

At the same time, the team will support a “robust investigation process” to ensure “the highest level of safety in our operations,” Walsh said.

He cautioned more cancellations of upcoming air shows are possible.

So far, the team canceled shows at March Air Reserve Base in California, in Lakeland, Fla., and upcoming “Wings Over Columbus” air show April 21-22 at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

A memorial service was recently held for the fallen aviator.

RELATED: Excessive speed blamed for Thunderbird crash in Dayton

he crash was the most serious since a Thunderbird jet flipped over and ran off a runway at Dayton International Airport last June during a familiarization flight, trapping two crewmen until they were rescued by first responders.

An Air Force investigation determined excessive speed and landing too far down on a wet runway contributed to the incident.

The mishap injured then team narrator and F-16 pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves, who was hospitalized for leg injuries, and destroyed the $29.2 million fighter jet on June 23, according to the Air Force. A second crewman who was a backseat passenger in the F-16D jet was uninjured, the Air Force said.

The Thunderbirds are scheduled to appear at the Vectren Dayton Air Show during the 2019 show season.

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A fair with a flavor: 17 countries part of Wright-Patt festival

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:14 PM

            Colorfully dressed in costumes, performers gathered at a past international fair of the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group. CONTRIBUTED
Colorfully dressed in costumes, performers gathered at a past international fair of the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group. CONTRIBUTED

A party in Dayton had an international flavor Tuesday.

People from 17 countries and more than 120 volunteers came together to celebrate the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group’s International Fair at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn.

The cultures spanned Japan to the Spain, and Bali to the Philippines, among other places around the globe.

“We do it as thank you to the community for helping us to adjust to the local area and it’s a friendship gathering,” said Inma Kusnierek, of Springfield, co-chairwoman of the group and who is originally from Spain. “It’s just grown and grown and grown.”

Most of the attendees have ties to the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which processes foreign military sales at Wright-Patterson.

The funds raised from the event pay the tuition of one of the spouses or high school graduates to attend college, she said.


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