The Air Force has committed to allowing Congress to double check its cost-saving plans before implementing changes that would lead to closing the 911th Airlift Wing in Pittsburgh, affecting reservists from Blair County.
There are 97 reservists from Rep. Bill Shuster's Ninth Congressional District working at the 49-year-old 911th Airlift Wing. The base's reservists also include people from Cambria County and State College.
"This is encouraging news not only for the airmen and families of the 911th Airlift Wing, but also for every citizen that expects our federal government to support the best national security assets for the best value," Shuster, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Shuster said he is encouraged that the Air Force has allowed the base to remain operational. and he said he will continue to work with the Western Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation in support of the 911th.
The 911th's future depends on a cost-benefit analysis conducted by Congress to that will influence the President's budget and the National Defense Authorization Act.
"The base is still set to be closed in fiscal year 2013," said 911th Airlift Wing public affairs officer Capt. Shawn M. Walleck, a Penn State Altoona graduate with family in Altoona.
"Those pieces of legislation will determine our fate," he said.
The base includes 1,400 reservists and in-reserve technicians, who are people working in offices of the base, but are also reservists. There are also civilians working at the base who are not in the reserves. A total of 320 civilian jobs are filled at the base, the airlift wing's officials said.
The airlift wing is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in September for a six-month tour, Walleck said. That deployment was scheduled at the same time the Air Force first proposed closing the wing.
As a result, the base was scheduled to serve overseas but was scratched off Air Force lists to receive new equipment for duty.
"Some planes need different types of equipment, and that was put on hold or was not going to happen [due to the scheduled closing]," Walleck said. "But last week, we were told aircraft modifications will take place."
If the base were to close, the next nearest base for reservists would be a base in Youngstown, Ohio.
"The 911th Airlift Wing has a long and distinguished history of military service and continues to be one of the most cost effective bases in our military," Shuster said.
Congress authorized $1.4 billion to cover costs of deferring proposed Air Force cost-saving adjustments that include retiring the three-decade-old C-130 aircraft from the 911th in fiscal year 2013. Retirement of those aircraft would lead to the base's closure.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.