Casey: Must Pass Defense Bill Contains Measure That Could Save 911th Airlift Wing - Senator Vows To Protect Provisions As Bill Comes To Floor

Senator Pushed for Inclusion of Provision in National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that, after his request, the Senate has included a provision in a must-pass defense bill that could help save the 911th Airlift Wing. The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, must pass Congress every year to fund and authorize the nation’s defense capabilities.

Senator Casey has strongly fought against the Air Force restructuring plans which have not been transparent or taken into account the strengths of installations like the 911th.  The bill will now include a provision that prevents the Air Force from divesting, retiring or transferring aircraft assigned to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve during fiscal year 2013, which is a major victory for the 911th along with the 171st Refueling Wing that is scheduled to lose 4 aircraft under the Air Force’s proposed plan.

“The 911th’s top-notch capabilities and proven efficiencies have benefited the Air Force and bolstered our national security, so the inclusion of the provision preventing the Air Force from divesting, retiring or transferring aircraft assigned to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve is a big victory for Pittsburgh and the nation,” said Senator Casey. “I will continue to fight for the 911th and 171st to ensure that the accomplishments of our servicemembers and civilians are recognized to protect this important asset.”

Senator Casey recently met with the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to make the case for keeping the Pittsburgh ARS open, and he has repeatedly called on the Air Force to provide the analysis it used to decide to close it.

Throughout this year, Senator Casey has advocated on behalf of the 911th to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin. Full text of his March letter to the Chairman is below:

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Levin:

I am writing to ask for your support in opposing the proposed closure of the Pittsburgh IAP Reserve Base, home of the 911th Airlift Wing.  The 911th has been scheduled for closure as part of the February 3, 2012 USAF Force Structure Changes announcement.  On March 6th, the Air Force announced that the civilian and military personnel associated with the base will no longer have their positions upon the base closure.  I strongly oppose this decision. This base should be provided with a new mission based on the proven cost efficiencies, resident expertise of the workforce, award winning capabilities of this state of the art facility, and homegrown benefits provided by the knowledge based economy of the Pittsburgh area.

The Pittsburgh IAP Reserve Base is one of the most cost-efficient bases in the country. For example:

  • The 911th Airlift Wing currently leases 115 acres of land from the Allegheny County Airport Authority. Under the lease, the airport covers fire and medical emergency rescue, 24-hour tower support, snow removal, and access to four runways for only $20,000 per year.
  • On the Reserve Base there are currently 59 buildings, 760 acres of drop zones, firing ranges, and opportunities for expansion. Recreating these capabilities elsewhere would cost the Defense Department approximately $400 million.
  • The 911th Airlift Wing has developed an aircraft maintenance program that has resulted in more aircraft availability days while saving the department more than $42 million over the last five years.

Air Force leadership have told me of their intention to strike a regional balance in cutting programs in order to equitably implement their strategy across the country.  While I can appreciate the attempt to be equitable, I question the wisdom of this approach as it relates to the taxpayer.  I believe that the Pentagon should seek to enact cuts that will ensure the most efficient Air Force possible, by targeting the most inefficient bases for closure while championing those which maximize local resources and exceed recruitment goals.  The 911th has consistently done both in an efficient and effective manner.  In my judgment, the closure this base would represent a misuse of U.S. taxpayer funds by hundreds of millions of dollars.

I have repeatedly requested that the Air Force provide a justification and the analysis that led to the decision to close the 911th, which it has yet to provide.  Furthermore, according to USC 993, the Air Force cannot close a base which has more than 1,000 troops until it notifies Congress and provides a justification for the reduction and an evaluation of the local strategic and operational impact of such a reduction.  I am told that the relevant Senate committees have not received this justification or evaluation.

I strongly support the Department of Defense efforts to restrain spending and find inefficiencies in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Yet, these decisions must be based on a transparent and fair process and publicly available documentation.  No such documentation or analysis has been provided in this case, and I am very concerned that the Pentagon is rushing to a decision that will lead to greater inefficiency while wasting taxpayer dollars.   

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

###