© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump budget recommends new round of military base closures

WBFO File Photo

President Donald Trump's latest federal budget proposal, released on Tuesday, increases overall military spending but also recommends a new round of base closings. But advocates for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station are not panicking just yet.

Within the document 2018 Major Savings and Reforms, which details and explains the Trump Administration's desired cuts to numerous departments and programs, the following text is included: "The Department of Defense (DOD) has approximately 20 percent excess infrastructure capacity across all Military Departments. The best way to eliminate DOD's unneeded infrastructure is through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)  process. If the Congress authorizes DOD to begin a new round of BRAC in 2021, DOD estimates it could generate $2 billion or more in annual savings by 2027. These savings would be re-invested in higher priority DOD needs."

While the last round of base closings was conducted in 2005, Niagara Military Affairs Council chairman John Cooper says subsequent budgets have recommended additional consolidation.

"The last several presidential budgets with President Obama also included some wording on BRAC," Cooper said. "Certainly, we know that may happen again and probably will happen again at some point."

But advocates for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station are not sounding the alarms at this time. Changes at the base over the years have included new missions for the 914th Airlift Wing and the 107th Attack Wing. The 914th is transitioning into an Air Refueling Wing, and has welcomed the return of KC-135 tanker aircraft to replace the C-130s that were stationed there for years.

When the U.S. Air Force began scaling back its C-130 missions in 2012, NIMAC and others began working, Cooper explained, to find opportunities to keep the local base in operation.

"What we found at the time was we had the infrastructure for a tanker mission," said Cooper. "We began to work with the Air Force and with those on Capitol Hill to help push to get a tanker mission."

The 107th, meanwhile, recently morphed into an Attack Wing which now operates remote-controlled aircraft from a hub in Niagara Falls to serve missions, including reconnaissance and combat, abroad.

When asked for his thoughts on a possible new BRAC process, and whether Niagara Falls' future might again be called into question, Congressman Brian Higgins told WBFO that Trump's overall spending plan must first get by Capitol Hill. He believes the overall budget is bad for Western New York. He's among many lawmakers predicting this budget will be rejected by lawmakers. 

He's also confident in the strong support for keeping the local base open. It's Niagara County's largest employer, supporting an estimated 3,000 jobs. Advocates for the installation also argue it is located in a strategically advantageous position for the air refueling missions that support operations overseas. 

"We have to lower our voices and strengthen our argument," Higgins said. "There's a reason why the delegation, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Chris Collins in the House along with me and Louise Slaughter, have fought to bring new missions to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and to continue concurrently to invest in the infrastructure there."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
Related Content