Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has met with Deborah James, nominee to be the Secretary of the Air Force, and outlined the importance of the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, home of the 911th Airlift Wing, to country’s national defense and Western Pennsylvania. Previously, Casey worked to keep the 911th Airlift Wing open through fiscal year 2014. The next Secretary of the Air Force will hold considerable sway over the 911th Airlift Wing’s future.
“The 911th Airlift Wing is unique in its efficiency and effectiveness and I was pleased to be able to update the nominee for the Secretary of the Air Force on the work being done there,” Senator Casey said. “While the 911th is secure through 2014, it’s critical that we keep making the case for the region’s highly skilled workforce so that the Airlift Wing can continue to have a robust presence in Western Pennsylvania.”
In addition to his meeting, Senator Casey also handed the nominee the below letter:
The Honorable Deborah Lee James
Nominee for the Secretary of the Air Force
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Dear Ms. James:
I would like to congratulate you on your nomination to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force. If confirmed, I look forward to working with you on the pressing national security issues that face our country. I would like to take this opportunity to stress my commitment to the military assets at the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, and more specifically the mission of the 911th Airlift Wing.
After having undergone the threat of closure for the past several years, the Air Force informed me in March that the 911th Airlift Wing would remain in operation through fiscal year 2014. However, in light of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, I am concerned that the Air Force may not fully understand the benefit that the U.S. receives from the 911th Airlift Wing. As such, I wish to highlight some of the many economic and security benefits that the Air Force will retain if the 911th Airlift Wing remains in operation.
The 911th Airlift Wing is an efficient and cost effective unit. In 2009, the 22nd Air Force noted that the 911th Airlift Wing maintenance group was “the best of business” based off its ability to cut turnaround times for aircraft maintenance inspections from 51.8 days down to just 13 days. These efforts ultimately led to an increase in aircraft availability days while saving the Pentagon more than $42 million over the last five years. Additionally, the Pentagon pays only $20,000 to lease more than 100 acres of land and the access to four runways for 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. I understand that this is a small sum when compared to the parallel costs at other bases and installations. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the 911th Airlift Wing employs a highly skilled and experienced workforce and has well exceeded recruitment goals.
The Department of Defense has invested millions of dollars in Pittsburgh’s military infrastructure. It is noteworthy that this investment and expansion is occurring at a time when the Department of Defense faces tough decisions on force reduction, thus demonstrating that the Department of Defense fully recognizes the region’s inherent value to the Armed Forces. For example, the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) office is collocated with the 911th Airlift Wing and the Navy is in the process of building a new Operations Support Center headquarters at the Air Reserve Base. In addition, military and family support services are growing with the current construction of a Commissary and Post Exchange which are scheduled for completion by summer 2014. These partnerships with the neighboring military units and the Airport Authority have resulted in numerous cost savings and efficiencies for the Department of Defense. In light of these important investments, closing the 911th makes little sense and would be a waste of taxpayer resources.
Once confirmed, I urge you to visit the 911th as soon as your schedule would allow. I think that you will be impressed with the facility and its committed workforce. I look forward to meeting with you again to further discuss this important installation and the critical role that Pennsylvania plays for our nation’s Air Force.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator