A measure 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, was signed into law Tuesday.
The Marietta base already has a joint-use agreement over the runway with its neighbor, Lockheed Martin, but federal law restricts other similar agreements from being signed. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, eliminates that restriction.
The provision was supported by all of Cobb’s representatives in Congress: U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and U.S. Reps. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville and David Scott, D-Atlanta.
The $700 billion legislation, in addition to authorizing funding appropriations and setting forth policies for Department of Defense programs and activities, 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 at 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.
Perdue called the restriction part of an “outdated law” that had “prevented the base from being utilized to its fullest potential.”
Another provision of the bill, according to Perdue, will have an effect on Dobbins’ neighbor as it calls for the order of 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin’s Marietta facility.
Isakson has said the bill would also benefit Georgia’s dozen-plus military installations and lauded a 20,000-plus troop increase and 2.4 percent pay raise for service members included within it.
Col. Marty Hughes, commander of the 94th Mission Support Group, said technically the law does not designate Dobbins as joint use, but merely opens the door to such a partnership.
“That is the very first step of the marathon in allowing us to take a looksee of making Dobbins joint use,” Hughes said Friday at a joint meeting of the Cobb Legislative Delegation and Cobb Board of Commissioners. “What that bill is doing is breaking that exclusivity between Dobbins, the Air Force and Lockheed, so once we break that open then that allows us to take the real official step of looking at Dobbins becoming a joint-use runway.”
Hughes described the lengthy process that will have to take place before any agreement between Dobbins and an outside entity looking to use the runway is reached. Dobbins officials would thoroughly review any proposal that comes to them, which would include a look at the number and type of aircraft that would use the runway. Then come discussions among officials from Dobbins, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Pentagon.
“And that’s just Phase 1,” Hughes said. “We’ve not even talked about the town hall meetings that would be vital to what we’re doing with the community, the economic analysis, the environmental analysis and all of those other steps. … But again, this is a marathon, and we truly support how we can make this a win-win for the Air Force, for Cobb County and the state of Georgia.”