WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over 30,000 people work ‘inside the fence’ at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which pumps $16 billion into Ohio’s economy.

What You Need To Know

  • Ohio lawmakers and local officials are confident Wright-Patt will continue to grow under President Biden

  • Rep. Mike Turner does have concerns about Biden cutting defense spending

  • Rep. Tim Ryan said some defense waste should be cut without weakening the military

  • Elaine Bryant with the Dayton Development Coalition said Wright-Patt is working with more schools and small businesses across Ohio 

From the Air Force to the Space Force to military research, the Miami Valley has made a name for itself as a home base for U.S. defense.

Wright-Patt is the largest single-site employer in Ohio and it helps put the Buckeye State on the map nationally and internationally. 

As President Joe Biden settles into the White House, Spectrum News set out to find what the future will look like for the base under a new administration.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), whose district includes Wright-Patt, said the base’s capabilities keep growing.

“We have on the books and in the missions, a number of projects that are underway that will probably result in increased jobs,” Turner said in a recent interview.

Turner, a top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee who regularly interacts with military brass in Washington, expects several thousand more jobs to be created at Wright-Patt over the next few years.

He said he's optimistic, even though he has concerns that Biden may try to trim the country’s military budget.

“Biden has already signaled that he wants to reduce overall defense spending, but in the areas in which Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has positioned itself as a mission, even during Obama’s sequester, we were able to grow,” Turner said.

Turner was referring to when Congress and former President Barack Obama agreed to tighten the federal budget, which led to trillions of dollars being shaved off the deficit.

As of the publication of this report, both the White House and the Air Force had not responded to requests for comment on the future of Wright-Patt under Biden.

Northeast Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who oversees military spending as vice-chair of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, argues the Department of Defense has waste it should cut, while also making sure the United States military stays strong.

“I don’t think there will be crazy cuts,” Ryan said in a recent Skype interview. “If there’s a weapons system or something that is outdated, something that is not needed anymore, we have a responsibility to the taxpayer to get rid of that. But a lot of what’s happening in Ohio is really on the cutting edge.”

Elaine Bryant, who works on growing Ohio’s stake in the defense world for the Dayton Development Coalition and JobsOhio, said in a recent interview that there’s an ongoing push to increase the amount of schools and outside companies that do business with Wright-Patt.

“I think we’ll still see growth going into the new administration. It just might be in different areas than we’ve seen traditionally,” Bryant told Spectrum News.

Biden has not yet sent his first proposed budget to Congress, which will include his recommendations for defense spending.

But a group of 50 House Democrats wrote Biden a letter this week urging him to cut spending levels seen under former President Donald Trump.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research,” the letter reads.

Notably, no Ohio Democrats signed onto it.

Bryant said under Trump, there were more dollars flowing that allowed smaller companies across Ohio to start a relationship with Wright-Patt.

“We saw a lot of folks getting into the industry, working with the military missions that maybe we hadn’t seen in the past. So we hope to continue to see those companies thrive,” she said.

Turner has three goals to keep expanding Wright-Patt’s reach:

  1. Unify the defense industry across Ohio
  2. Make sure Ohio is appealing for veterans to stay in
  3. Better commercialize what’s happening on base.

He said funding under Trump helped, and he hopes Biden will follow suit.

“There was a significant investment in those areas that was different than the previous administrations, that have given us an ability to secure a real good foundation for Wright-Patt,” Turner said.