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Air Force Plans to Move Research Office Out of Ballston

Air Force research logo(Updated at 2:15) The U.S. Air Force is planning to move the Air Force Office of Scientific Research from Arlington to Ohio, and Arlington’s representatives in Congress are fighting to keep it here.

The office employs 170 people at 875 N. Randolph Street in Ballston and focuses on improving the Air Force’s technological capabilities. If the move were to become official, the AFOSR would follow the National Science Foundation and federal Fish and Wildlife Service as another federal entity leaving Ballston for more affordable space. In this case, the Air Force would move the AFOSR to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

“There are major advantages to being located in Arlington’s hub of innovation,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) told ARLnow.com. “Much of this human and technological infrastructure would be forfeited in a move to Ohio. I hope the Air Force realizes what it could lose if they decide to relocate the Office of Scientific Research.”

Moran joined with Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine in sending a letter to Air Force Commander Janet C. Wolfenbarger asking the military branch to reconsider its plans.

“Northern Virginia offers a unique and valuable ‘critical mass’ of military resources, technology infrastructure, world class universities and cutting-edge talent,” Warner said in a press release. “We strongly urge the Air Force to reconsider these compelling benefits before moving the Office of Scientific Research to Ohio.”

The Air Force has issued a Request for Information on moving the office to Ohio, according to a congressional source.

“A move like this requires several levels of decision-making once the RFI is complete,” the source told ARLnow.com. “No decision is expected until FY 2016”

After the jump, the full text of the letter the congressmen sent to Wolfenbarger.

Gen Janet C. Wolfenbarger
Commander, Air Force Materiel Command
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH 45433

Dear Gen Wolfenbarger:

We write to you today to express our concern over the possibility of a relocation of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research from its current site in Arlington to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

As you know, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has a long and proud tradition of basic research in collaboration with the world’s leading academic institutions. AFOSR has invested in wide-ranging academic efforts, from radiochemistry and superconductivity in the 1950s to environmental technologies and advancements in the treatment of battlefield injuries in the present day. This organization has funded everything from spacecraft to lasers to flat screen television sets, all in collaboration with academia. Critical to this partnership has been its proximity to the vibrant research community in Arlington and neighboring communities.

The growing research presence in Arlington boasts academic institutions such as Virginia Tech and George Washington University, as well as government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation. Finally, Northern Virginia and neighboring Maryland are home to some of the world’s leading defense companies. Together these institutions provide fertile ground for the cultivation of collaborative research, the benefits of which AFOSR has been reaping for decades. We believe the research synergies achieved here cannot be replicated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We fear the impact that such a move would have on current and future research efforts, not just for the Air Force but for the wider academic and defense communities.

We understand the Air Force’s impulse to seek potential savings by consolidating some of its facilities within the fold of the Air Force Research Laboratory.  Such efforts are commendable in the current fiscal environment, with declining defense budgets. However, given the undeniable benefits of maintaining its location in what has become a global hub of science and technology, we ask that the Air Force promptly provide any information regarding current plans to relocate AFOSR to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to include the projected timeline and costs associated with such a move, expected savings, and the anticipated impact on the current AFOSR workforce.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to hearing from the Air Force on this matter.

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