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BRAC Commission Votes to Save Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station

By Associated Press

Washington, DC – A base-closure panel voted Friday evening to keep Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station open and most of its personnel in place, while sending eight Stratotanker aircraft elsewhere.

The nine-member commission voted to strip eight KC-135 tankers from the Niagara Falls base. The Pentagon wants to move those planes to Bangor, Maine, but added language to the decision specifically instructing the 400 or so support staff for those planes to remain in Niagara Falls.

The panel rejected a Pentagon plan to take the base's other eight planes, C-130 Hercules aircraft, to Little Rock, Ark. If the panel had approved that second move, the Niagara Falls base would likely have closed.

"It is a great day for New York," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I am so thrilled, it is beyond anything we could have expected. But it is what we hoped for."

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, speaking with Clinton by phone as the two celebrated the decision, said the recommendation "clearly spells out that all the personnel will remain so we don't take a hit on jobs."

The base and adjoining facilities have 2,936 full- and part-time workers, generating $150 million a year for the area.

The commission began Friday making its final series of votes in the process known as BRAC, for Base Closure and Realignment.

Niagara Falls is home to the 914th Airlift Wing, which flies the Hercules, and the 107th Air Refueling Wing, which flies the Stratotankers.

The Pentagon proposed closing Niagara Falls as part of a nationwide plan to save $48.8 billion over 20 years.

The total BRAC package will go to the president next month and later Congress for final approval.

Niagara Falls' supporters argued the Air Force drastically lowballed the actual price of the moves, which would leave the area vulnerable in the event of a homeland security crisis.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.