Corbett makes case for endangered Pa. reserve wing

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HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett is asking Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to keep C-130 transport planes at an air base in a Pittsburgh suburb as the Air Force looks to move its operations and the Department of Defense is on the hook to cut spending.


The Defense Department earlier this year told the Air Force to postpone a decision on the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, which is home to the 911th Airlift Wing. The unit includes eight C-130 refueling planes, some of which are deployed, and about 2,000 contract personnel, federal civilian employees, traditional reservists and active-duty military personnel.


Corbett said at a news conference Friday at the base that his administration is prepared to the make the strongest possible case to keep the base’s operations intact.


In a Dec. 13 letter to Panetta, Corbett wrote that the 911th has a superb record of performance, efficiency and effectiveness that helped it survive two previous rounds of base closings, in 1995 and 2005.


“These achievements are the results of the dedication, diligence and professionalism of the members of the 911th Airlift Wing,” Corbett wrote.


An Air Force spokeswoman said Friday she could not immediately comment on its plans for the 911th.


Also at the base is a joint Navy-Air Force training center that is under construction and would occupy 30,000 square feet. It is to be completed next year.


In February, the Air Force announced plans to close the base by September 2013, estimating the move could save $354 million over five years. The Air Force has argued that the C-130 refueling planes based there are among the oldest in the fleet.


Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is required to cut nearly $500 billion in spending over 10 years. That could mean cutbacks at other Pennsylvania military installations, Corbett has said.


Air Force planes have been there since World War II and can reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in less than two hours, Corbett said.


The base receives support from Pittsburgh International Airport, making it cost efficient for the Air Force, and is close to a world-class medical system in Pittsburgh that is capable of serving medical needs in the event of a disaster, Corbett said.


Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey asked Panetta to delay any decision on the base until a panel on Air Force needs completes its work.


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