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Murphy, Doyle continue fight for 911th

MOON TWP. — Two congressmen warned Wednesday that Air Force officials remain focused on closing the 911th Air Force Reserve Station in Moon Township.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-18, Upper St. Clair Township, and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-14, Forest Hills, reported they met with Lt. Gen. James Jackson, who heads the Air Force Reserve, on Wednesday morning and came away concerned with what they were told.

The Air Force announced earlier this year that it planned to close the Moon base within two years as part of a Pentagon mandate to cut $8.7 billion from its budget, but those efforts were rebuffed after legislators passed legislation putting off any aircraft retirements or transfer through at least March 2013.

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However, Murphy and Doyle said it appears the 911th is still in the cross hairs once the deadline passes. They said the U.S. Senate is working on legislation to prohibit any aircraft movement through September 2013, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. The House already has approved a similar bill.

In the interim, Murphy and Doyle said in a shared statement, “We’re now more committed than ever to fighting a decision that was misguided, mistaken and misinformed. During our meeting, the Air Force Reserve did agree to provide us with an apples-to-apples comparison of operating costs at reserve installations. It is our expectation that this cost analysis will confirm the 911th Airlift Wing is not only invaluable to the military’s overall strategic mission, but also one of the most cost-effective installations in the country.”

Murphy and Doyle said in their statement that Jackson confirmed to them that his agency was told by the Air Force to evaluate for closure any facilities with fewer than 300 civilian employees, of which the 911th is the only one. However, supporters dispute that the base falls under the cutoff, saying there are 318 civilian workers.

Murphy and Doyle said Jackson told them the Air Force did not perform a comparison of operating costs at bases before making the recommendation.

“Despite being cost-effective, critical to national security and an asset to our local economy, the Air Force is attempting to close the 911th for one reason only — because they can, not because they should,” the legislators said in their statement.

Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said Wednesday afternoon that the decision to close the 911 is not based on its costs or even its civilian employment. She said the Air Force wants to retire the seven older C-130 transport planes at the 911th, which would make the base unneeded.

Murphy has previously said there is no reason newer planes can’t be assigned to the 911th from elsewhere if the issue is just eliminating outdated aircraft.

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