Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mixed news on 911th - Pittsburgh Area Loses Jobs and Santorum Powerless To Help

Mixed news on 911th - PittsburghLIVE.com:

Third most powerful Republican in the US Senate and Santorum cannot or will not bring home the Bacon! We have a net loss on our Federal Highway Tax Dollars and now Santorum lets our Military Base jobs leave Pa. JBOC

"Mixed news on 911th


911th Airlift Wing

Branch: Air Force Reserve
Mission: To deliver and pick up troops, equipment and supplies in combat zones and other cargo-handling missions. In combat zones, the unit's C-130 cargo planes convert into flying emergency medical facilities that evacuate injured troops to hospitals.

Location: Moon

Acres: 115

Buildings: 511,000 square feet

Local military and civilian jobs: 322

Payroll: $47 million a year

Other spending: $26 million a year

What's next

Today: The Base Realignment and Closure Commission ends deliberations on a Pentagon plan to close 837 military bases nationwide.

Sept. 8: Deadline for the commission to send its recommendations to President Bush. He has the authority to send the list back for revisions but has said he'll accept the panel's recommendations and send them to Congress.

Late October to early November: After Bush sends the list to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to veto the entire proposal or allow it to take effect.


By Brian Bowling
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, August 27, 2005

Allegheny County apparently would lose the 911th Airlift Wing but gain a homeland security base under a plan approved by a national military commission Friday.
The Moon base would lose its eight C-130 cargo planes and about 100 jobs to Pope Air Force Base near Fayetteville, N.C., but retain about 200 jobs as it turns into a facility that would support military and homeland security operations.

At the headquarters of a local task force that has been fighting to save the base, five members who spent the day monitoring the Base Realignment and Closure Commission meeting struggled to make sense of the panel's decision.

"It sounds like we're open, but under what conditions?" said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Lowery Bailey.

The commission is reviewing a Pentagon plan that proposed closing or reducing operations at 837 bases nationally to save money by streamlining the military. Locally, the Defense Department proposed closing the 911th and the Army's Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Collier while moving the Army Reserve's 99th Regional Readiness Command from Moon to Fort Dix, N.J.

The commission Wednesday approved the closing of Kelly and the transfer of the 99th. According to Army and commission documents, those decisions will cost the area 530 military jobs and 315 in the private sector.

The Pentagon's original plan for the 911th would have cost the region 322 jobs at the base, and an estimated 258 jobs in the private sector, but the commission's revised proposal apparently would retain all but about 100 of the base jobs.

Overall, the state stands to lose about 2,000 military jobs and almost that many in the private sector if the commission's recommendations are enacted.

The commission voted yesterday to close Willow Grove Naval Air Station near Philadelphia, but a federal judge ruled that the Defense Department can't close a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit on that base without the governor's approval.

Pit-BRAC members had been cautiously optimistic as the BRAC vetoed the proposed transfer of C-130 cargo planes involving two other bases, and a staff analyst said the Air Force used bad data when it evaluated the 911th's usefulness -- in particular under-reporting how much space the base had available.

Even in the minutes leading up to the vote, the commission's staff noted that the Moon air base could handle 20 planes -- more than enough for the 16 planes the Air Force prefers for airlift squadrons. The staff analysis also showed that Pittsburgh had the lowest operating and maintenance costs of any air base because of its partnership with the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Then commissioner Harold Gehman, a retired admiral, read the motion to convert the Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing in Moon to an "enclave" that would provide "civil-military operations, homeland security and community-based medical support" for the Defense and Homeland Security departments. The motion didn't explain these duties.

"Well, whatever they did, it's unanimous," said Pit-BRAC spokesman Keith Dorman as the nine commissioners raised their hands to pass the motion.

With their cell phones jangling, Pit-BRAC members began taking calls from other supporters wanting an explanation that the headquarters crew didn't have.

Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Bart Farzati said immediately after the vote that the commission's use of the word "enclave" for the 911th was ominous because the Air Force uses that term for air bases that don't have any aircraft.

"They created this 'enclave' title, and no one really knows what it means," he said.


Dorman later said the staff of both of the state's U.S. senators told the task force that the commission's motion would move the 911th's planes and air crews to North Carolina.

Gov. Ed Rendell said eliminating the 911th would have had a severe economic impact on the Pittsburgh area.

"Although we regret losing the C-130s, we are elated about the fact that we were able to keep jobs in Pittsburgh," Rendell said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, said Rendell, a Democrat, and the congressional delegation "fought like tigers" to save bases throughout the state.

"All factors considered, I think that we're not doing too badly, although I would like to have done better," Specter said.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn Hills, said he was disappointed with the vote to close Willow Grove but said the new mission at Moon holds growth potential, given the biochemical technology in the area.

"I'm not at all disappointed with this recommendation," Santorum said. "In my mind, it's almost a best-case scenario because it gives us a new mission that can grow."

Santorum said he and Specter will try to get new planes stationed in Pittsburgh, which has had a military air wing since 1942.

John Brosky, co-chairman of the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania, said he hopes no one is celebrating the decision.

The commission's action raises more questions than it answers, he said. For example, it's not clear whether the new base will be part of the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security, Brosky said.

"What kind of base will we have without airplanes?" said Brosky, who is retired from the Air National Guard.

Making changes

A look at a federal commission's decisions on the list of major bases the Pentagon wants to close. The Pentagon defines "major" as facilities whose replacement cost would be $100 million or greater.

CLOSE (as Pentagon recommended)

Alaska:


Kulis Air Guard Station (closure was conditioned on there being enough federal money to relocate operations elsewhere)
California:


Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Concord Detachment

Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant

Onizuka Air Force Station
Georgia:


Fort McPherson

Fort Gillem

Naval Air Station Atlanta
Indiana:


Newport Chemical Depot (closure was conditioned upon completion of treaty obligations)
Kansas:


Kansas Army Ammunition Plant
Michigan:


Selfridge Army Activity
Mississippi:


Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant

Naval Station Pascagoula
New Jersey:


Fort Monmouth (closure was conditioned on an assurance that research under way in connection with the war on terrorism won't be disrupted)
Oregon:


Umatilla Chemical Depot (closure was conditioned upon completion of treaty obligations)
Pennsylvania:


Naval Air Station Willow Grove
Texas:


Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant

Naval Station Ingleside

Brooks City-Base
Utah:


Deseret Chemical Depot (closure was conditioned upon completion of treaty obligations and a study to see if the depot can be converted for another use)
Virginia:


Fort Monroe
KEEP OPEN (either wholly or partially, rather than close as the Pentagon wanted)

California:


Naval Support Activity, Corona
Connecticut:


Submarine Base New London
Louisiana:


Naval Support Activity, New Orleans
Maine:


Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Michigan:


W.K. Kellogg Airport Air Guard Station
Nevada:


Hawthorne Army Depot
New Mexico:


Cannon Air Force Base (would stay open until at least Dec. 31, 2009 and sets conditions for Pentagon to continue operating it after that time).
South Dakota:


Ellsworth Air Force Base
Texas:


Red River Army Depot
CLOSE (rather than downsize as Pentagon wanted)

Maine:


Naval Air Station Brunswick
KEEP OPEN (rather than drastically downsize as the Pentagon had wanted)

Alaska:


Eielson Air Force Base.
The commission also decided to keep open two bases it had considered closing, but it added conditions in both cases. The Pentagon wanted all along to keep them open. Those bases are:

California:


Broadway Complex San Diego
Virginia:


Oceana Naval Air Station
NO VOTES YET

Massachusetts:


Otis Air National Guard Base
New York:


Niagara Falls International Airport Air Guard Station
Pennsylvania:

Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station
Wisconsin:

General Mitchell Air Reserve Station

Brian Bowling can be reached at bbowling@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7910.

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