Lawmakers and local military supporters said efforts to save the Moon-based 911th Airlift Wing are not over, despite an Air Force that the base will close in 2013.
Members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation in a letter have asked President Barack Obama to intervene and block the closing of the base, which would result in the loss of 1,122 military and 281 civilian jobs.
Officials called the planned closure a "devastating mistake for the military, the taxpayers and the Pittsburgh region," in their letter to the president.
The Pentagon plans to cut $8.7 billion from the Air Force's 2013 budget. The 911th is targeted for closure because of the age of its eight C-130 tactical aircraft, which were in 1967.
"I think they are just targeting us for the fact that we have some old C-130s," said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, at a press conference today at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh's Strip District.
Officials said they hoped the Air Force would agree to perform a public cost-benefit analysis of the 911th's operations before making a final decision on the closure. Lawmakers have said that the base employs 318 civilian personnel, while the Air Force claims only 281 are employed there. U.S.
Defense Department regulations governing base realignment and closure apply to bases with 300 or more civilian employees, and congressional approval is needed to shutter them.
"All we're asking them for is to do their homework," said state R-Moon. "Because when the homework is done, we pass."
The 911th was targeted by the Pentagon for closure in both 1995 and 2005.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, called the township airlift wing the most cost-effective in the country. The base pays a $20,000-per-year fixed cost for full use of the four runways at Pittsburgh International Airport, which is maintained by the Allegheny County Airport Authority.
Murphy said the Air Force's decision to close the 911th was "the easy decision and not the economical decision."
"There are comparable bases that are 200 times more expensive to operate," he said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the county pledges to continue providing air traffic control, fire and safety and runway maintenance to the base at its current fixed cost.
"That's an investment that we want to make," he said.
Brian Schill, public relations director for the , said residents can visit the organization's website and Facebook page to learn about initiatives to support the base. He said the group hopes to hold a public forum in Moon to discuss the closing with residents.
"The best thing they can do now is stay exposed and educated on the issue," Schill said. "They're always welcome to write their local elected officials, but the best thing to do right now is stay informed."