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Casey says C-130s to remain into 2015 at Moon base, but squadron will lose jobs

Next year's Air Force budget has good news and bad news for a local Reserve base, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday.

The Air Force plans to keep eight C-130 planes at the Moon base through at least September 2015, a year longer than its previous promise. The bad news is that it plans to cut 82 of 88 positions from the base's Civil Engineer Squadron.

“Keeping these C-130s at the 911th Airlift Wing is a major victory,” Casey said. “I'm disappointed in the Air Force's announcement on the Civil Engineer Squadron, but I will work to oppose this during the budget process and continue to work to ensure that the Pennsylvanians who want to serve in or work for the Air Force Reserve have the opportunity to do so.”

A spokesman for the 911th couldn't be reached for comment. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the secretary and other top officials will be discussing personnel and fleet changes Monday, but she couldn't confirm the details Casey provided.

The Air Force is making similar cuts to the civil engineering units at other reserve bases, said Chip Holsworth, chairman of the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania.

The Pentagon hasn't announced the rationale behind the cuts yet, and they're somewhat puzzling because the units build and repair buildings, runways and other infrastructure at the bases, Holsworth said.

“I don't know what's the motive behind it,” he said.

For the 911th, the cuts are particularly worrying because the base's size has been a controversial point in previous Pentagon attempts to close it, Holsworth said. Federal law requires congressional approval before the military closes any base with 300 or more civilian employees.

The Air Force in February 2012 said it could unilaterally close the 911th because it counts fewer than 300 of the base's 2,000 employees as civilian employees.

Local supporters and the area's congressional delegation disagreed, and the Pentagon in March 2013 reversed its plans and said the base would stay open until at least September of this year.

The message the Air Force sent Casey this week adds another year to its existence.

“That's great news on the base, at least for now,” Holsworth said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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