The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, visited the 911th Airlift Wing Thursday to meet with senior and civic leaders who lobbied him to keep the base open. While there he thanked the airmen for their contributions to national security and continuing focus on their mission.
Donley also had the opportunity to meet with personnel from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps who partner with the base to support operational training. He was briefed on the capabilities of the airlift wing, the benchmark/cost savings of the base, and its participation in national disaster preparedness.
Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said the secretary was exposed to the capabilities the base possesses for improvement. "He was shown the amount of land that was available for expansion because, up to this point, it's continued to fester in the files at the Pentagon that there was no sufficient land for the 911th, and he was able to see a couple hundred acres plus an additional 20 acres that the county was willing to give," Murphy said.
In February, the Air Force announced it would close the 911th Airlift Wing, but local lawmakers are trying to overturn that decision. They believe the Air Force failed to see the cost-effective aspects of the base. Murphy said this visit was crucial to promoting efforts to keep the base open.
"When you compare the amenities of the 911th base at the Pittsburgh Airport, its four runways, control tower, fire safety, security, snow removal, all those things that are practically free of price for the Air Force, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that's a heck of a lot of savings when other airports would charge you a million dollars a year," Murphy said.
Murphy added the Air Force now has some things to think about. "I believe now, after having seen it, they would be hard pressed to justify some of the decisions they made before on the cost because they simply did not know the cost analysis before at all. So this was good that the secretary got to see things first-hand for the first time."
To conclude his visit, Donley met with local community leaders from the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Allegheny County Executive Office, Allegheny Conference on the Community Development, Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, Military Affairs Coalition of Western Pennsylvania, and Congressional staff. They discussed the importance of the base and the pending decision to close the base.