Air Force says closing 911th would save $354 million
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WASHINGTON -- Air Force officials say closing the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon would save the Department of Defense $354 million over five years, but local officials fighting against the planned closure dispute that figure, saying the 911th is one of the most cost-effective bases in the country.
The Air Force released cost-savings figures Monday in response to a request from U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, whose district includes the base.
Mr. Murphy and other Pennsylvania lawmakers have been asking the Pentagon to justify the decision to close the base as part of an overall Air Force realignment plan. Nationwide, 286 bases are slated to have their fleets reduced, but the 911th is the only one slated for closure.
Mr. Murphy said the explanation of the Pentagon's rationale falls short because it fails to include a fiscal comparison with other bases with similar missions; does not consider the cost savings at the base because of resource sharing with other nearby bases; and fails to take into account the cost of $58 million worth of recent improvements at the base.
In a five-page explanation, Pentagon officials told Mr. Murphy they considered several factors including the age of the wing's C-130 transport planes; the limited ability to expand operations; the ability to close the base without incurring new costs; and the proximity of the Youngstown, Ohio, Air Force Reserve base where some of Pittsburgh's 1,300 guardsmen could be transferred.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have said the Air Force's analysis should have been more expansive. For example, they've said, it should have considered that the base pays the county a token $20,000 a year for access to four runways along with fire and rescue support from Pittsburgh International Airport.
About 1,900 personnel work at the base, including 54 active-duty troops and 1,422 reservists and trainees. At issue is the number of civilian employees -- important because Congressional authority is required to close a base that has more than 300 of them. The Air Force puts the number at 283 while the base says 318 work there.
First Published April 11, 2012 12:00 am