YARS and Camp Ravenna deserve key investments


Unanimous consensus reached last week among members of a powerful congressional committee on this nation’s military-spending priorities for the 2019 fiscal year bodes well for the Mahoning Valley region.

That’s because the $96.9 billion package approved by the House Appropriations Committee last Wednesday for military construction and for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contains a hefty chunk of change for two major installations in our vicinity: $8.8 million for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township and $7.4 million for the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center that sprawls the border of Trumbull and Portage counties.

Too often, our slice of Northeast Ohio gets snubbed or only crumbs from state- and federal-funding pies. Think most recently of rejection by the U.S. Department of Transportation of a fine-tuned grant proposal to make needed infrastructure improvements along the Fifth Avenue corridor in Youngstown.

But with the tentative approval of the $16.2 million in defense funds for our region, we’re pleased to see the Valley sharing in the bounty of President Donald J. Trump’s heightened commitment to and funding for our national defenses.

The measure, however, still must wend its way toward final approval by the full House of Representatives and Senate.

As it does, we must single out the efforts of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, whose seniority and membership on the powerful House spending committee no doubt played a role in securing these two key investments.

“I am thankful to have been able to leverage my position on the MIL-CON VA [Military Construction and Veterans Affairs] Subcommittee to bring these funds back to our community so that we can make the important investments needed to keep our military facilities on the cutting edge,” Ryan said in a statement last week.

POSITIVE SIGNS FOR FUTURE

The appropriations for YARS and Camp Ravenna represent critical commitments to the growth and future viability of those outposts.

At the U.S. Air Force Reserve base in Trumbull County, the $8.2 million, which Ryan has expedited for release this year, will be used to complete planned infrastructure upgrades enhancing installation security and add to the overall military value of the base, according to the 910th Airlift Wing Office of Public Affairs .

At Camp Ravenna, the infusion of funds will be used to build a multipurpose and state-of-the-art machine-gun range, one of many projects worth more than $32 million being planned at the Ohio National Guard outpost.

In addition to Rep. Ryan’s commitment and perch of power, these two most recent success stories also evolved from a longstanding united show of support from public and private groups in the region.

Bipartisan backing from Northeast Ohio’s congressional delegation, consistent support from state leaders from Gov. John Kasich on down and private initiatives, many of which have sprouted from the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, have kept YARS and Camp Ravenna in the forefront of attention of Congress and U.S. military leaders.

Clearly, those efforts must continue and be strengthened. Depending on how the political winds blow, the current expansion of military preparedness could swiftly blow away.

That’s why efforts must roll on to revitalize and update the fleet of C-130 transport planes at the Youngstown air base. In the past four years, the number of those aircraft has been cut in half at the base, and Col. Dan Sarachene, commander of the airlift wing at the base, has been leading the charge to replenish the fleet with updated and more efficient C-130J models.

At Camp Ravenna as well, lobbying must continue full throttle toward its selection as the home of the East Coast Missile Defense headquarters for the nation.

It is one of three finalists for the $3.6 billion project that would bring 2,300 or more construction jobs and 850 high-paying permanent jobs to the region.

Clearly, both military installations wield significant economic impact on local communities. At YARS, that impact translates into $100 million per year in the Valley. Both also play key roles in the overarching mission of fortifying our nation’s defenses.

As such, the U.S. House and Senate should act expeditiously to approve the fiscal 2019 military construction budget.

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