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Congress fighting against new round of base closings

WBFO News File Photo

Saying that it has too many bases, the Pentagon is suggesting that some should be closed. However, there is pressure in Congress against closing any bases, like the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

With the Pentagon budget an annual fight in Washington and even more so with the Sequester, the military is suggesting it would have more money for operations if it spent less on base maintenance.

Many bases are vital to the communities where they are. The Niagara Falls base is a key element of the local economy with an estimated $200 million dollar annual economic impact.

"You're always going to have budgetary challenges at the federal level and there is always going to be reports that are issued saying we have a surplus in terms of infrastructure. My job, our job as a delegation is to make sure that we prepare, we position the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station for long term viability and that's what we're working on every single day," said Rep. Brian Higgins.

Prior base closings processes have left the Niagara Falls base nearly alone with a string of closings around the Northeast. Higgins says he and other members of Congress and civilian supporters have found new activities for the base.
"There's a tendency to focus a lot of attention, a lot of resources on the Southern Border. But, we have had unique challenges on the Northern Border as well," Higgins explained.

"I think locally and nationally, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station works well long term relative to the Pentagon's objectives. I think the delegation has been successful in securing new missions, including most recently the C-135," said Higgins.

Higgins says he works closely with Rep. Chris Collins and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer to protect the base and add new programs to ensure one of the few remaining bases on America's Northern Border stays open.

Next year, aerial jet tankers will be returning to Niagara Falls replacing the C-130 cargo planes now flying from there. The C-130s replaced the KC-135 tankers in a prior round of base closings and now the tankers are coming back, along with millions of dollars in equipment to handle them.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.