This week I secured passage of a measure, by the House Armed Services Committee, that will allow the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to begin offering educational opportunities to larger numbers of civilian personnel. This change was made as part of the House Armed Services Committee version of the National Defense Authorization Act. I am confident we can win final Congressional approval in the House in the coming weeks.
The physical base at Wright-Patterson is important to our local economy, but as important in our knowledge based economy, is the intellectual capital we have in programs like AFIT. AFIT is a graduate school of engineering and management as well as an institution for technical professional continuing education. A component of Air University and Air Education and Training Command, AFIT is committed to providing defense-focused graduate and professional continuing education and research to sustain the technological supremacy of America’s air and space forces.
For several years, the regional business community has advocated for an opening of AFIT educational programs to non-government civilian personnel. It is believed that allowing AFIT to expand its offerings beyond military personnel will produce benefits within a larger student body and within the institution itself. AFIT students currently attend classes at the University of Dayton and Wright State University as part of the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute. The Air Force can benefit from a free exchange of knowledge and perspectives with the private sector even as it provides advanced training to students who normally would not have access to AFIT instruction.
AFIT’s mission focuses on high-quality graduate education and research that maintain Air Force dominance in defending the nation. The Graduate School offers a variety of programs leading to the award of master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as graduate certificate programs. In fact, since 1956, AFIT has awarded more than 16,000 graduate degrees and doctor of philosophy degrees.
AFIT will continue to be an important part of our economy for years to come, because it will play a key role in the research and development of technologies that will be used to defend our nation. One of the most important areas of research being pursued at the institute is cyberspace defense. Clearly this is an area of study that will lead to important discoveries that can be applied in future warfare planning and to the protection of the private sector from cyber attack.
This is the kind of public-private sector partnership that makes sense in our changing world and the type of initiative I have supported in the past. AFIT programs have been offered to a limited number of civilians in the past. This move dramatically enhances the possibility of greater collaboration and demonstrates why it was so important that we saved AFIT during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Commission process.
Finding economic development opportunities for Ohio is an ongoing task. One economic development strategy that is proven effective is building on the assets we have in place. That’s why we are all committed to finding new investment opportunities at Wright-Patterson. AFIT is an obvious place to begin.