MOON TWP., PA -- Congress could approve legislation Thursday that would strengthen military airlift missions like the 911th Air Force Reserve Station in Moon Township and make the Pentagon base any cuts on cost savings, not areas such as employment levels.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-18, Upper St. Clair Township, said Wednesday that the final National Defense Authorization Act, which controls defense spending, will be voted on by both chambers Thursday. He said it contains language that will head off the efforts to close the Moon base in the next couple of years.
Under the proposed legislation, the Air Force will be required to keep 32 mobility aircraft, either C-130s or C-27Js, and will be asked to place them where they can be best used, which Murphy said would favor the 911th. The Air Force had planned to mothball 65 C-130s, including the seven at the 911th.
Murphy said the decisions about where to place the planes will no longer be based on the number of employees, it will be what is the most efficient location. He noted the 911th, which has about 1,100 reservists, is one of the highest-ranked facilities in efficiency and cost savings, especially because all of its emergency response services, air traffic control and runway maintenance are provided by Allegheny County through nearby Pittsburgh International Airport for $20,000 a year, unlike other bases that have to bear all of the costs themselves.
"Our efforts to keep the base open are gaining support because we've shown the 911th is leaner and more efficient than other bases," Murphy said.
Murphy, who said the 911th has lined up a powerful ally in House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said once the legislation is approved, he will continue to work with leaders to make sure an impartial analysis is conducted into the worth of the 911th. He said he hopes the base could possibly even get newer planes for its mission.
"We have a long way to go," Murphy said.
The Air Force announced in February that it was going to close the 911th as part of plans to make more than $8 billion in spending cuts. The military said it did not need Congressional approval for the closure because the Moon facility has fewer than 300 civilian employees, a figure challenged by base supporters, who said there are about 315 civilian employees there.
The 911th survived two previous attempts to close it in 1995 and 2005.