The United States Air Force has announced it will not close the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township. The base had been slated for closure as cost saving measure, but federal, state, and local officials have been involved in a year-long fight to keep it open.
“All eight planes will remain, the 911th will remain at full strength, and also the 171st Air Refueling Wing will also remain at full strength with 16 planes. All in all, it’s great news for the region,” said Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18).
The base will remain open through 2014, a decision based on funding years. Beyond that, Murphy said the Air Force will continue to review it along with every other base in the world.
“Because the Pittsburgh base has undergone this thorough analysis, we’ll be ahead of the curve with regard to a lot of the facts already being at the Pentagon and them knowing the strengths. What helped us win this is we were able to show them the true economics of the Pittsburgh base,” he said.
The Air Force had said shuttering the 911th would save $354 million over five years but supporters have said from the beginning that the numbers used to determine the savings were faulty.
“They work with Greater Pittsburgh Airport, they have access to the runways and control tower, fire, safety, security, those are things that are given that before the Air Force didn’t have on their books, they weren’t counting that,” said Murphy.
Supporters of keeping the base open said when those things are taken into account the base may actually save the Air Force $100 million over ten years, plus Murphy said it provides a regional economic boost.
“The 911th has about a $128 million annual economic impact. That’s in terms of goods and services they buy, when the reservists come to town, hotels, restaurants, all those things count in this,” he said.
He said it’s also an important employer, with about 300 employees and some 1,400 reservists that drill there. Plus, future plans will have a multiplier effect.
“The commissary, which is under construction, the Navy base that’s under construction at the 911th base, all those things are going to have a continued growth impact for the region of all these military that will be coming into Pittsburgh on weekends and other days to do their drilling and their service,” said Murphy.
Going forward the Pennsylvania delegation will continue to work with state, local and business officials to prevent the 911th from being on any closure list in the future.
“What I believe we should be working toward is also expanding the mission, convincing the Air Force that not only does it make sense to keep the Air Reserve and Guard there at full strength, but I think it makes sense to keep active duty there and expand the mission,” said Murphy, “they get so much for the dollars spent there and the Air Force is going to have to be looking for every way they can peel back spending.”
Officials from across the region chimed in with their praise for the announcement. State Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) represents the 37th Senatorial District which includes the 911th Airlift Wing.
“This is a huge victory for the region,” Smith said “with nearly 2,000 personnel operating out of the 911th, any downsizing or closure of the installation would have had an extremely negative economic impact throughout our region.”
US Senator Bob Casey also lauded the announcement, “This was the right decision. I have been fighting to keep the 911th open because it is efficient and effective and a smart use of resources. I will continue to press Secretary Hagel to ensure the long-term sustainability of the installation.”