While the Observer-Reporter editorial board may bemoan the 911th Airlift Wing base remaining open, local military families and taxpayers can both celebrate the Pentagon’s course correction.
From the outset, we knew the Pentagon relied on inaccurate data on everything from the exact number of employees to the operational costs and size of the 911th.
But perhaps most alarming is that the Pentagon was making this decision without having conducted a cost-benefit analysis. The 911th wasn’t slated for closure because it was inefficient. Rather, Pentagon accountants believed it equaled an amount in the defense ledger that could be cut without congressional review and without regard to national security. That is the kind of penny-wise and pound-foolish decision-making from the Pentagon budget office that notoriously gave taxpayers the $200 toilet seat and $400 hammer.
As part of our effort, we systematically laid out the military value and unique assets of the base, such as: the joint forces training conducted by local military units; the participation of the 911th in the National Disaster Medical System (thanks to our region’s prowess in health care); the $58 million invested at the 911th since 2004; the nearby new commissary for military families; and the planned multimillion Navy Reserve center.
Most importantly, operating costs at the base are 200 times below that of comparable installations because the Air Force saves approximately $10 million annually from runway maintenance, air control and emergency response services provided by Pittsburgh International Airport.
One would think the Pentagon, which boasts 800,000 employees, would have assigned at least one budget analyst to look at this critical data.
In the end, new Air Force leadership did review our data as part of an exhaustive review of reams of documentation we provided. Finally, the Pentagon learned what we already knew locally: the 911th is one of the most cost-effective, skilled and mission-ready airlift units in the country.
Despite this victory, our efforts to showcase the 911th will not stop. I’m going to keep working to ensure the 911th and the nearby 171st Air Refueling Wing are well-positioned should there be a future nationwide base closure process. We’re not just going to fight to keep what we have. We’re going to keep working to make all our Southwestern Pennsylvania military installations even stronger.
Upper St. Clair
Murphy represents the 18th Congressional District, which consists of portions of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland Counties.
Accurate data saved 911th Airlift Wing