Canton Repository

July 13, 2004

Taft tries to save unneeded bases in Ohio

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Gov. Bob Taft met with several Defense Department officials Monday to make a case for sparing Ohio from any military base closures that the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will recommend next year.

“We believe we’re well prepared now” to defend the state’s eight military installations, he said after the meeting. “We have funded local efforts in each community in Ohio to promote the strengths of each city, to promote the strengths of each base.”

Ohio’s installations are among 260 major facilities and more than 300 smaller sites that the commission will evaluate with the aim of trimming about 24 percent in excess capacity.

Wright Patterson Air Force Base is the largest military installation in the state.

Other facilities include Cleveland Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Youngstown Air Reserve Station at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, 178th Air National Guard Fighter Wing in Springfield, 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo, the Defense Supply Center in Columbus, the Air National Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Airport, and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, formerly known as the Lima Tank Plant.

The facilities provide 38,000 jobs, Taft said.

“Good bases will get closed down” across the country, warned Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, who is defending the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in his district. “I think we have to make sure we sustain these bases.”

In a prepared statement, Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, said he and other Ohio lawmakers were “ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with (Taft) and make the case to keep Ohio’s bases open.”

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, released a statement saying Ohio is in a good position “because our facilities are all well justified and make important contributions to national security.”

Taft was unable to get a sense during the meeting of how vital the Ohio facilities are compared to others across the country, he said.

“We don’t have the specifics,” he said. “The people I spoke to today, they don’t really know the specifics.”

Taft said he considers all the Ohio facilities necessary.

Taft met with several top Pentagon officials, including Air Force Secretary James G. Roche; Lt. Gen. John Bradley, Air Force Reserve chief; Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, National Guard bureau chief; Zack Gaddy, director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service; and Phillip Grone, an assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment.

The state has provided $2.5 million to six communities, including Youngstown and Cleveland, to help them pay for assessments of their facilities, create community coalitions and communicate the strengths of each base.