Casey Demands Answers from Air Force on 911th

In Letter, Casey Requests Analysis Used in Plan to Close 911th

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released a letter to Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, requesting the analysis that the Air Force used in its decision to close the 911th Air Reserve Wing.

“The lack of transparency in the decision making process to close the 911th is deeply concerning, especially given the base’s proven record supporting our nation’s national security interests,” said Senator Casey.

At a meeting last week in the Capitol that Senator Casey requested with Air Force leadership, the Air Force failed to produce a detailed analysis of their decision to close the base.   Additionally, Senator Casey requested civilian manning documents for the 911th in order to understand how the Air Force is counting those authorized to work at the base. 

In his letter, Senator Casey wrote, “The 911th is the only reserve base that is scheduled for closure, yet there was little analysis provided for this proposed decision during the meeting. Moreover, it is unclear if the Air Force has the authority to close this base, given the threshold number of authorized personnel for the base.”

Senator Casey also argued that that the 911th is one of the more cost efficient reserve bases in the country.  In keeping with the Defense Department’s focus on joint operations, the 911th has sought to build partnerships with the Navy Reserve Center (NOSC) and the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, US Army Reserves. 

Senator Casey highlighted the 911th’s exemplary recruitment numbers which speaks to the long tradition of service and patriotism in the Pittsburgh area.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

The Honorable Michael B. Donley

Secretary      

United States Air Force

Dear Secretary Donley:

I am writing to express concern about the process which led to the proposed decision to remove seven C-130’s from the 911th Air Reserve Wing in Pittsburgh and close the base.  I urge the Air Force to provide the documentation which led to this proposed closure and clarify the number of authorized civilian personnel at the base.  I also urge you to seriously reconsider this proposed closure decision in light of the proven efficiencies of this important installation.

On February 9, I and members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, met with Major General Phillip Breedlove, Major General William Etter, and Major General James Jackson to discuss this proposed decision.  I acknowledge the Defense Department’s significant budget constraints, but believe that this decision has unfairly targeted the 911th, despite its proven record of efficiency.  The 911th is the only reserve base that is scheduled for closure, yet there seems to have been little analysis undertaken to support this decision.  Moreover, it is unclear if the Air Force has the authority to close this base, given the threshold number of authorized personnel for the base.

The 911th is one of the more cost efficient reserve bases in the country.  In keeping with the Defense Department’s focus on joint operations, the 911th has sought to build partnerships with the Navy Reserve Center (NOSC) and the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, US Army Reserves.  The leadership of the 911th has also developed strong relationships with the Pittsburgh International Airport and the local community.  As a result, the unit only pays $20,000 per year to be located at the airport.  Significant savings result from this location because the airport pays for all crash, fire, and rescue services.  The Federal Aviation Administration pays for air traffic control costs and operates full time.  This creates a considerable cost savings over other reserve bases which have to assume these costs and pass them on to the Defense Department.  The 911th also has access to ample air space due to a recent downturn in air traffic in the region.

I am also concerned about the impact of this decision on our national security capabilities in terms of reservist manpower.  In every meeting with Defense Department officials, we agree that our personnel are the most valuable resource in our arsenal.  Over the past seven years, Pittsburgh has met or exceeded its recruitment goals.  This point cannot be understated.  A significant factor in determining the location of reserve basing must be the availability of ample qualified personnel who are willing to serve.  Pittsburgh has that capability and a proven history of service.  I understand and appreciate that the military needs to sacrifice in these fiscally challenging times, but we should be very careful to not limit our ability to recruit and retain the best reservists possible.

In response to this letter, I respectfully request that the Air Force address the following issues:

1.         I want to see the documentation that includes the analysis of the specific decision to close the 911th.  We have reviewed the publicly available strategic documents which explain the overall proposed plans for the Air Force restructuring.  We have not been afforded the opportunity to review the documentation which led to the decision to close the 911th. 

2.         The Department of Defense cannot close down a base that is authorized for more than 300 civilian and 1000 reserve personnel without congressional approval.  If the base personnel levels exceed those minimum numbers, the base cannot be unilaterally shut down.   I request that you provide your civilian manning documents for the 911th in order to understand how the Air Force is counting those authorized to work at the base. 

Pennsylvanians deserve full and detailed responses to these concerns as soon as possible.  Thank you for your service to our Nation and your commitment to identifying necessary efficiencies in our military.  I look forward to working with you as this process continues.                                     

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

cc:  Secretary Leon Panetta

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