Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Officials Meet with Air Force Hoping to Keep 911th Open Base Is Slated for Closure in Sept. '13

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Officials Meet with Air Force Hoping to Keep 911th Open Base Is Slated for Closure in Sept. '13

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- There were a lot of questions but few answers Thursday during a meeting of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and three Air Force generals who want to close the 911th Airlift Wing near Pittsburgh International Airport.

Lawmakers, who said the meeting was cordial, left it frustrated by the lack of information about the decision to close the base in Moon. They said Air Force officials reported there are 283 civilian personnel at the 911th Wing, but officials at the base have said it has 318 civilians. The difference is important because federal law requires congressional approval to close a base that has more than 300 civilian employees.

The Air Force is expected to take another look at the numbers next week.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment after the meeting, but Pennsylvania lawmakers had plenty to say.

They said the 911th is one of the most cost-efficient bases in the country and the Pentagon considered only the age and condition of the base's air fleet, not its effectiveness or the community's investment in the base, including a deal with Allegheny County to provide four runways and low-cost emergency services.

"We think we have a case because of the efficiency and the quality of the workforce" at the base, said Rep. Mark Critz, D- Johnstown.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said he was taken aback by the lack of documentation supporting the Air Force's rationale for wanting to close the base in September 2013.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, whose district includes the base, is leading the delegation's opposition to the planned closure, which the Air Force announced a week ago. He said the Air Force doesn't have all the facts and didn't study its options hard enough before announcing the base closure.

"We want them to take a clear look," he told reporters after Thursday's meeting broke up. …

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