PITTSBURGH – Two Pennsylvania members of Congress say the Air Force has decided to keep a Pittsburgh-area base open through at least the 2014 fiscal year.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, both say they’ve been told the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township will remain operational. The Air Force last year announced plans to close the facility by September as part of a nationwide cost-cutting effort, saying that closing the base could save $354 million. But the plan was put on hold and reviewed after surrounding communities and politicians from both political parties complained that the closing doesn’t make financial sense.
“We are very thrilled,” said Jeanne Creese, the Moon Township Manager, who said the lobbying effort “was one of the most bipartisan, cooperative efforts I’ve ever been involved with.”
Creese said the last year has been difficult for local officials because they often didn’t know how or why the Department of Defense was making decisions.
“Right up to the last minute, you’re wondering, have they really looked at it the way we did,” Creese said of the DOD.
The Air Force had argued that the C-130 refueling planes based in Pittsburgh are among the oldest in the fleet, and the closure was part of efforts to cut nearly $500 billion in spending over 10 years.
The base uses space at Pittsburgh International Airport. The unit includes eight C-130 refueling planes and about 2,000 personnel.
Murphy noted the work to save the base isn’t over.
“We’re not just going to fight to keep what we have. We’re going to spend the next two years make the base stronger and so appealing to the Air Force that officials wouldn’t even want to consider closing the 911th ever again,” he said in a statement.
Local business owners said the base provides an economic boost to the entire community.
Sally Cyrilla of Cyrilla Landscaping & Supply Co. in nearby Moon Township said her daughter recently started working at the base as a civilian employee.
“I’m just really happy,” Cyrilla said of the base reprieve.