Air Force secretary visits 911th Airlift Wing
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During a visit Thursday to the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport, the secretary of the Air Force gave no indication he was rethinking plans to close the base next year.
Michael Donley's visit came on the invitation of Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and other members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, which has strongly opposed the base closure.
"The Secretary greatly appreciated the chance to thank Airmen in Pittsburgh personally for their contributions to national security, gain additional insight into the 911th Airlift Wing's mission, and receive candid feedback from local leaders about their perspectives on the future of Pittsburgh ARS," Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for Mr. Donley, said in a statement.
"I never had an expectation that if he agreed to go that it would be a dramatic difference, necessarily," Mr. Casey said.
However, Mr. Casey said, "He has now heard first-hand from the people who can describe the attributes much better than I can."
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, drafted an amendment passed in the House's Defense Authorization Act last month to prevent the closure. It requires congressional approval of base closures affecting more than 1,000 personnel.
The Pittsburgh base has about 1,900. Mr. Casey and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., are pushing for similar language in the Senate's version of the bill.
"We're confident that what he'll take away from this visit is what thousands of Western Pennsylvania military families already know: that the 911th Airlift Wing is one of the most strategically unique and cost-effective bases in the country," Mr. Murphy said in a joint statement with Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, Bill Shuster, R-Blair, and Mike Kelly, R-Butler.
The language Mr. Casey is pushing would prevent cuts to the Air Reserve and National Guard across the country.
"I'm most concerned with the 911th," Mr. Casey said. "The only way to achieve that kind of prohibition is to make it a broader coalition and get votes from other states."
First Published June 8, 2012 12:00 am