The Air Force continues to maintain the closing of the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township produces "the largest savings that could be realized" by the agency, but base supporters say flawed assumptions are being made.
In a memo released Friday to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-18, Upper St. Clair Township, based on requests the legislator made for figures used to justify the elimination of the 911th, the Air Force again argued it could save millions more dollars by closing the Moon base as compared to other facilities.
The Air Force said last month it estimated it could save about $354 million by 2018 by closing the 911th.
The memo lists a comparison in cost-per-flying hours for the 911th and several other bases, with the 911th listed as $18,473 per flying hour. The figure is higher than many, but still far below the $29,807 at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia and $29,134 at the the Air National Guard base in Schenectady, N.Y.
Of the 28 bases included in the comparison, the 911th is listed as more expensive per flying hour than 22 and less expensive than five others.
However, Murphy has complained the discussion about flying hours costs is not fair to the 911th because it was given some of the oldest C-130 transport planes in the fleet in 2005 and newer planes were taken away. So, its flying hours costs are inflated because the planes need more repairs than newer ones used on other bases.
Murphy has said there is no reason newer planes can't be assigned to the 911th from elsewhere if it was just about eliminating outdated C-130s.
He said the Air Force also is not taking into account how much cheaper operations costs are at the 911th because it leases space from the Allegheny County Airport Authority for $20,000 per year, and receives air traffic control, runway maintenance and emergency response services as part of the lease, instead of having to pay for those items separately.
And the 911th shares training and equipment costs with other nearby military installations, including the Army Reserve station where a large commissary could be built in the next year.
Also, the county has said it could give the base another 20 acres to use if it needs the space, Murphy said.
The Air Force also continues to insist the 911th is the only base with fewer than 300 civilian workers, which would mean it could be closed without congressional approval. Supporters have said there are 318 civilian workers at the 911th.
Distributed by MCT Information Services