Casey Calls on Senate Leadership to Protect Amendment to Preserve 911th In Must-Pass Defense Bill

Key Senate Committee Has Included Provision in Bill That Would Prohibit 911th Closure Through 2013; Casey Calls On Senate Leadership to Ensure It Remains in Final Version

National Defense Authorization Act Must Pass to Continue U.S. Defense Operations

PITTSBURGH, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), today called on Senate leadership to commit to protecting a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that could preserve the 911th Airlift Reserve Wing and four KC-135 aircraft at the 171st Air National Guard. This must-pass defense bill now contains a provision that would prohibit the closure of the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station (ARS) through 2013.  In a letter to the Senate’s leadership, Senator Casey called for the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to be protected.

Standing at the Allegheny County Courthouse Courtyard, Senator Casey was joined in his call by Chip Hollsworth and Sally Haas of the Military Affairs Coalition and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“Preserving the 911th will be a hard fight but getting this provision in a bill that Congress must pass is a major step forward,” Senator Casey said. “It’s important that the Senate leaders commit to keeping this important provision in this year’s defense bill because if passed it will prevent the Air Force from taking dramatic, irrevocable action that will unduly impact southwest PA and deprive the military of a top-notch workforce.”

Senator Casey has consistently fought to preserve the 911th, making the case that:

  • Leasing the 911th is a low-cost operation: The Pentagon pays only $20,000 to lease more than 100,000 acres on the 911th installation, which is a small sum when compared to the amount paid to keep and maintain other bases.
  • Closing the 911th could actually cost the Defense Department more money in the future: Recreating the 911th’s capabilities could end up costing the Defense Department about $400 million.
  • Losing the 911th installation 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 more than $42 million over the last five years.

In his letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Casey made the case that the Air Force has not provided a full justification for the proposed closure of the 911th.  He said, “The lack of transparency associated with these proposals and other infrastructure changes around the country is extremely troubling.  Legislative action is necessary to ensure that the Air Force does not take drastic and irrevocable action that negatively impacts southwestern Pennsylvania and other communities across the country.  The NDAA would prevent the Air Force from taking these actions in FY13 and would allow the 911th to remain operational.”

The full text of Casey’s letter to the Majority Leader can be seen below:

The Honorable Harry Reid

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Dear Mr. Leader:

I am writing to express support for provisions in the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act which would prevent the Air Force from implementing major infrastructure changes in FY13.  This bill was voted out of the Armed Services Committee on May 24th.  I urge that this language be protected during the Senate floor deliberations on the bill and that similar language appear in the FY13 Senate appropriations bill.

Of particular concern to my constituents is the fate of the 911th Airlift Reserve Wing and 171st Air National Guard unit, both located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Air Force has proposed closing the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station (ARS), home of the 911th Airlift Wing, and removing four KC-135s from the 171st.  Since these announcements were made in February, I have repeatedly called on the Air Force to reconsider these proposals, which I believe have not fully accounted for the efficiencies at both installations.  Unfortunately, the Air Force has not provided the data which led to this proposal, nor has it fully accounted for the impact of the closure of the Pittsburgh ARS on the local community.  Simply stated, the Air Force should not close the ARS or remove the KC-135s given that it has not provided necessary justification for doing so. 

The lack of transparency associated with these proposals and other infrastructure changes around the country is extremely troubling.  Legislative action is necessary to ensure that the Air Force does not take drastic and irrevocable action that negatively impacts southwestern Pennsylvania and other communities across the country.  The NDAA would prevent the Air Force from taking these actions in FY13 and would allow the 911th to remain operational.

Senators Levin and McCain have worked in a bipartisan fashion to address this shortcoming in the FY13 Air Force proposal.  I look forward to helping to protect these important provisions when the FY13 NDAA comes to the floor and hope that the bill will garner your support.  Thank you for your consideration of this matter of critical importance to the people of western Pennsylvania.  

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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