Canton Repository

March 25, 2004

Pentagon report targets Ohio bases for closure

By OTTO KREISHER
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon report to Congress affirming the need for a new base closure round next year includes data that could pose a threat to National Guard and Army and Air Force Reserve facilities in many states, including Ohio.

The document, released late Tuesday, indicates that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio could be a target of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission.

The report does not cite specific installations as possible closure or reduction targets, but provides data on types of activities.

In the required report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld certified that “the need exists for the closure or realignment of additional military installations,” based on a calculation that the armed services have 24 percent excess capacity in their facilities.

The calculated excess is based on a comparison of existing facilities and a projection of the forces the services will have in 2009. The estimated excess varies among the services: 29 percent for the Army, 24 percent for the Air Force and 21 percent for the Navy and Marine Corps.

But the calculation of surplus varies even more widely by category of facilities.

The report said the Air Force Reserve and the Air Guard have 36 percent and 34 percent more aircraft parking space than they need and that more than half of the Army Guard’s and Reserve’s large training areas are excess.

Those figures raise particular concerns when combined with Army plans to change some Guard and Reserve combat units to other functions requiring less training space and a possible Air Force move to merge more of its active and reserve flying units.

Ohio has only one large active military installation: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Columbus. Its primary tenants are the headquarters for the Air Force Material Command and the large Air Force Research Laboratory.

Although the research facilities at the base are considered excellent, the Pentagon is advocating merger of similar activities among the services and relying more on industry for research and development of new products. That could increase the pressure to close or scale back Wright-Patterson’s activities.

Wright-Patterson also has the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing, with C-141 transports that are being retired but could be replaced.

Ohio is home to Camp Perry, a large training base near Port Clinton that is used by National Guard and military reserve units. The Pentagon report’s calculation of 50 percent excess capacity in major reserve training areas could make it a target for closure. That would open the land for other uses without a major loss of revenue because of the relatively few full-time personnel there.

Ohio has four Air Guard and Air Force Reserve units operating from commercial airports and one Air National Guard base, all of which could be considered for adjustments next year.

Mansfield-Lahm Airport is home to the Air Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing, Springfield-Beckley Airport has the 178th Fighter Wing and two combat controller units of the Air Guard, Toledo Express Airport has the Air Guard 180th Fighter Wing, and Youngstown-Warren Airport hosts the 910th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, plus an Army Corps of Engineers unit and facilities for Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserves.

The two airlift units fly C-130s and the fighter wings fly F-16s, which could be relocated.