Air Force Decision to Close Pittsburgh Reserve Wing Lacked Data, Lawmakers Say
After meeting with senior Air Force leaders last week, a delegation of Pennsylvania lawmakers criticized the service’s recommendation to close the Air Force Reserve’s 911th Airlift Wing without first completing a technical analysis.
“The Air Force admitted there is no analysis showing that closure of the 911th is the best decision on behalf of the taxpayers. I understand restructuring is difficult, but it must be done impartially, with Congress’ approval, and only after all relevant information has been analyzed,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R).
The Air Force’s proposal to retire or relocate the 911th’s seven C-130H aircraft and close the air reserve station at Pittsburgh International Airport was part of a plan to eliminate 286 aircraft over the next five years, including 227 in fiscal 2013. The proposed force structure changes focused primarily on impacts to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve and are projected to save $8.7 billion. The Pittsburgh facility was the only one recommended for closure.
Murphy said base closures are supposed to depend on each base’s costs and military value, and not because a particular location has the fleet’s oldest aircraft, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“In our meeting, the Air Force admitted costlier bases would be kept open in other states to satisfy so-called ‘intangible’ reasons like ‘geographic balance.’ The Air Force told us they had to make billions in cuts in the next five years, but they did not gather, review, nor analyze objective data,” he said.
The lawmakers also questioned the Air Force’s assertion that closing the station did not require it to comply with 10 U.S.C. 2687, the permanent statute for closing installations outside of a BRAC round. The law requires the defense secretary to give Congress 60 days to review a proposed closure of an installation at which at least 300 civilian personnel are authorized. Base supporters say the 911th has 318 civilian personnel.
Last Tuesday, Murphy introduced legislation to block the Air Force from relocating the air wing’s seven aircraft.