Pittsburgh, PA- As a critical independent commission report on the future of Air Force installations across the country nears, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined by stakeholders of the 911th community, made a new push to protect the base in 2014 and beyond. Casey unveiled a letter to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force that makes the strategic and economic case for the 911th Airlift Wing.
“The 911th Airlift Wing continues to be one of the country’s most efficient and effective bases. I’m urging the National Commission to consider the return on investment the 911th Airlift Wing provides the Air Force. It is a model for how federal and local partnerships can work to provide efficient and effective service to our nation,” Senator Casey said. “The 911th has had a substantial impact on Western Pennsylvania’s economy and the security of our nation. As the Commission finishes its work, I’ll be pushing leaders at the Department of Defense and the Administration to preserve the role of 911th in our national defense.”
The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force is charged with making recommendations about how to modify the Air Force’s structure and could include proposals for the future of Air Reserve installations like the 911th. The Commission is scheduled to soon report their findings which could have an impact on the future of the 911th Airlift Wing. Casey’s letter, which will be formally placed in the Commission’s public comment period, makes the strategic and economic case for preserving the 911th. In 2013, Casey worked to forge an agreement that protected the Airlift Wing from closure.
Some highlights of the 911th Airlift Wing:
- Leasing the 911th is a low-cost operation: The Pentagon pays only $20,000 to lease over 100,000 acres on the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, which is a small sum when compared to the amount paid to lease other installations.
- Closing the 911th could actually cost the Defense Department more money in the future: Recreating the 911th’s capabilities elsewhere could end up costing the Defense Department nearly $400 million.
- Losing the 911th base would deprive the military of an incredibly skilled workforce: The 911th Airlift Wing has developed an aircraft maintenance program that has resulted in more aircraft availability days while saving the Pentagon $84 million since 2006.
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
The Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy
The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force
Dear General McCarthy and Members of the National Commission,
Thank you for your service in performing a comprehensive review and assessment on the structure of the Air Force. As you know, in Fiscal Year 2013, the Air Force proposed a restructuring plan without consulting Congress or the American people. This proposal unwisely recommended the closure of the 911th Airlift Wing, failing to recognize the unit’s cost-effectiveness and importance to the Pittsburgh community. I understand that it is critical that the Air Force maximizes its resources and capabilities to ensure our national security while minimizing costs to the American taxpayer. As the Commission formulates its recommendations, I write to emphasize the tremendous return on investment that the 911th Airlift Wing provides the Air Force and the people of my home state.
Pennsylvania has a strong and deeply rooted tradition of service. Pennsylvanians have defended our country honorably throughout our nation’s history and continue to do so today. Toward that end, the Air Force has positioned Reserve and National Guard units across the state, each of which performs a unique and critical mission. Pennsylvania’s Air Force Reserve and Guard members are prepared for numerous contingencies, whether they are called to respond to a domestic emergency or deploy to support combat missions overseas. They have fostered close relationships with the communities they serve, meeting their recruitment goals and supporting local economies.
The Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station is home to the 911th Airlift Wing, which is a model for efficiency, capability, cooperation, cost-effectiveness, and readiness. The 911th Airlift Wing flies and maintains eight C-130Hs, and its commitment to efficiency has paid dividends for the Air Force. Its highly skilled workforce developed an innovative aircraft maintenance program that has become the benchmark for other C-130 units. Its technicians reduced the average time needed to complete fly-to-fly inspections from 52 days in 2006 to 21 days in 2013, resulting in thousands more aircraft availability days and yielding an estimated cost savings of $84 million since 2006. The 911th Airlift Wing averages 800 airdrops annually and has supported combatant commands in more than 80 locations abroad over the past five years.
The 911th Airlift Wing provides this essential capability through their efficiencies and partnership with local entities. The Air Force leases 100 acres for only $20,000 annually and uses an additional 21 acres for no additional charge from the Allegheny County Airport Authority. The lease agreement includes numerous services: aircraft fire and crash, structural fire protection, ambulance and medical, landing and take off, runway maintenance and repair, control tower operations, and snow removal. The Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station affords the Air Force access to four runways, no air traffic restrictions, and all-weather operations capability that allows for immediate deployment and unlimited operations. It currently has 59 buildings, 760 acres of drop zones, firing ranges, and opportunities for expansion. Recreating these capabilities elsewhere would cost nearly $400 million.
The 911th Airlift Wing is the foundation upon which the Pittsburgh area military community has grown, and the potential for expanding capabilities is strong. There are several other military assets in the area including the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 171st Air Refueling Wing, the Naval Operations Support Center (currently under construction on the 911th Airlift Wing), and the McGarity Army Reserve Center. This spring, a Commissary and Post Exchange will open to support military families across the region. The Department of Defense has invested more than $50 million over the last five years to support the expansion of its footprint in the Pittsburgh area. These assets support not only Pennsylvania servicemembers, but those in the neighboring states of West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Its strong relationship with the academic community including Carnegie Mellon University affords Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station assistance developing effective and efficient technologies and practices. Further, the 911th Airlift Wing consistently meets or exceeds its recruitment goals, while other Air Force Reserve units across the nation have fallen short.
Pennsylvania’s Air Force installations and units exemplify the Commission’s goal of maximizing capabilities and cost-efficiency while ensuring readiness and effectiveness. As the Air Force’s requirements evolve, installations and units like the 911th Airlift Wing, the 171st Air Refueling Wing, and others across our home state keep Reservists and Guard members ready not only to respond to domestic contingencies but to readily deploy to future conflicts.
I am grateful for the Commission’s leadership and thoughtful consideration of the tough issue of Air Force restructuring in this difficult fiscal environment. Given the exemplary efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the 911th Airlift Wing, I feel certain that the Commission will see the value in retaining these capabilities and expanding the unit’s mission in future years.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator