A defense spending bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday contains a provision that would allow Dobbins Air Reserve Base to enter into partnerships with private companies, giving them access to the base’s runway and control tower.
The base already has a joint-use agreement over the runway with its neighbor, Lockheed Martin, but federal law restricts any other similar agreements from being signed. The new provision in the bill approved Tuesday would eliminate that restriction.
The initiative is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, which U.S. House members moved forward Tuesday by a 356-70 vote, with all three representatives whose districts include Cobb in support — Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell; Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville; and Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.
“Transportation is a key element for businesses looking to expand, and this change opens up a whole new realm of possibilities that do not currently exist,” Loudermilk said. “Dobbins ARB is prime real estate for research development, transportation and disaster relief services. With the support of the Air Force, Lockheed and the local community, the door is now open for the continued growth and expansion of Dobbins ARB and Cobb County.”
While the overall legislation authorizes funding appropriations and sets forth policies for Department of Defense programs and activities, it includes language that repeals a clause in the 1989 National Defense Authorization Act that set Lockheed Martin as the sole private entity allowed to use the 10,000-foot runway of Dobbins.
The base is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 94th Airlift Wing and host to thousands of guardsmen, reservists and civilians from the Army, Navy and Marines.
The bill is expected to get a vote in the U.S. Senate after Thanksgiving. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, and David Perdue, R-Georgia, have both expressed support for the measure and voted for a version of the bill in September that contained the Dobbins provision. Senate passage would send the bill to President Donald Trump for final approval.
Perdue called the restriction part of an “outdated law” that had “prevented the base from being utilized to its fullest potential.” Perdue and Isakson worked together to get the measure that would lift the exclusivity clause into the Senate’s version of the defense bill, with Isakson drafting the provision’s language and Perdue working with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its chairman, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to get the provision added.
In addition to overturning the 1989 clause, the provision would allow Dobbins to enter into joint partnerships under the direction of the secretary of the Air Force.