Politicians again tout 911th Airlift Wing as 'innovative' and 'efficient'

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Politicians lined up once again Wednesday to tout the 911th Airlift Wing attached to Pittsburgh International Airport, saying the Air Force reserve base is innovative and efficient.

It’s the same argument elected officials have been making for years, and it apparently worked last year when the Air Force reversed an earlier decision to shut the base down.

Since then, local, state and federal politicians have been pushing even harder to raise the profile of the base to keep it off a future base closure list.

As part of a tour of the state’s military facilities, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, chairman of the state Military Community Protection Commission, visited the 911th and the nearby 171st Air Refueling Wing and held a brief news conference at the 911th.

Joined by state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, and state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, Mr. Cawley repeated what many others have long said — that the 911th is a “blueprint” for running a military base.

A major selling point for the base has been the facility’s partnership with the county airport authority. The Air Force leases 100 acres for $20,000 a year from the authority and uses another 21 acres for free.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., highlighted that arrangement in a letter he wrote to the Air Force in January asking that the base be spared from future attempts to close it.

Mr. Smith said Wednesday that the $20,000 annual cost is unique.

“No other installation in the United States can compare with that kind of efficiency,” he said.

The Air Force also has an agreement with the county that allows it to use four runways at the airport in addition to fire protection and other services.

The Defense Department has spent more than $50 million in the last five years to support expansion of its military presence in the airport area, according to Mr. Casey’s office.

In addition to the 911th and the 171st, the airport area is also home to the McGarity Army Reserve Center and a naval operations support center under construction at the 911th.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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