Senator Asks Secretary to Visit Base to View Its Impact on U.S. National Security and the Region
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) held a meeting with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley where he made the case for keeping open the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station (ARS), home of the 911th Airlift Wing. During the meeting, Senator Casey handed the Air Force Secretary a letter outlining his objections to the Pentagon’s handling of the Pittsburgh ARS, demanding more information from the Defense Department and requesting that the Secretary make a personal visit to the Pittsburgh ARS so he could view its positive impact for the region and the country’s national security.
In the meeting with Secretary Donley, Senator Casey stressed the need for a full accounting of the Pentagon’s rationale for proposing the closure and pressed the case for keeping the base open.
In his letter to Secretary Donley, Senator Casey wrote, “My main concern is that the Air Force is proposing to close the Pittsburgh ARS because it can, and not because of any serious cost analysis that went into the decision. I am also concerned that the Air Force is wasting a remarkable resource in the 911th. The Pittsburgh ARS should be provided with a new mission, not closed down.”
During the meeting, Senator Casey also said that:
- The ARS is a low-cost operation: The Pentagon pays only $20,000 annually to lease 0ver 100,000 acres on the base, which is a small sum when compared to the amount paid to operate other bases.
- Closing the ARS 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 ARS 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.
The full text of Casey’s letter to Secretary Donley can be seen below:
The Honorable Michael B. Donley
United States Air Force
Dear Secretary Donley:
Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the FY13 Air Force restructuring proposal. I appreciate your leadership of the Air Force and your willingness to engage with Congress on this issue. I would like to highlight some of my concerns with the proposed closure of the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station (ARS), home of the 911th Airlift Wing, and the downsizing of the 171st Air National Guard installation, both located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As you know, I strongly oppose both of these measures because I believe that they will end up costing the Air Force more in the future.
My main concern is that the Air Force is proposing to close the Pittsburgh ARS because it can, and not because of any serious cost analysis that went into the decision. I am also concerned that the Air Force is wasting a remarkable resource in the 911th. The Pittsburgh ARS should be provided with a new mission, not closed down.
On April 6th, the Air Force provided additional information on the proposed closure of the Pittsburgh ARS, but several outstanding questions remain. I would appreciate a response to the issues listed below:
- Please provide the specific data which shows the cost and cost effectiveness of a C-130 base at Pittsburgh as compared with other bases around the country. How will the Air Force save more direct costs by closing Pittsburgh as compared with transferring planes from another base? How does it make strategic sense for the Air Force to move aircraft to other locations that will incur significant infrastructure costs while the 911th has state-of-the-art infrastructure?
- In its FY13 Force Structure proposal, the Air Force did not provide any analysis on how the closure of the 911th would impact the local community. I am not convinced that any of this analysis took place. Will the Air Force provide this information?
- The Air Force claims that the Pittsburgh ARS has land constraints which limit its ability to house more than ten C-130 aircraft without having to acquire additional capacity from the airport authority. This was proven false during the 1995 and 2005 BRAC processes -- the Allegheny Airport Authority has repeatedly offered to transfer additional land at no cost. Why does the Air Force continue to make this claim?
- The Air Force claims that Youngstown and Niagara can absorb the reservists from the 911thAir Lift Wing. I understand that Youngstown is losing 130 billets and is currently overmanned. The 911th is scheduled to lose 1,452 positions and the 171st is scheduled to lose 187 positions associated with its downsizing. The New York Air National Guard will lose 997 positions which will certainly shift to the Air Force Reserve in Niagara. Even if a reservist from the 911th could travel hours to Niagara, there are not likely to be any positions for them.
- I invite you to visit this important installation. During my last visit, I was impressed by the 911th’s customized maintenance program which has saved the Air Force approximately $42 million over the last five years. The work ethic, efficiency and expertise that the 911th brings to the Air Force cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the country.
Thank you for your continued attention to these issues and service to our country. I look forward to your response.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator