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Leaders Concerned About Future of Falls Air Base | News

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Leaders Concerned About Future of Falls Air Base
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With the budget axe suddenly falling on the Pentagon, there are renewed concerns about the future fate of some military bases including the Niagara Falls Air Base, which is one of the largest employers in our region.

This week, base supporters will travel to Washington to try to make their case to top officials and the ranking General of the Air Force.

"I'll have some opportunity to have some one on one time with him," said Merrel Lane of the Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC). "So I'll obviously be promoting the attributes here at Niagara and hopefully, maybe it'll affect things."

If the base ends up on the initial closing list, as it did in 2005 and 1995, this time the fight to save it will be much tougher.

Buffalo State College Professor Bruce Fisher served as a consultant to the first Base Reallignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in the 1990s.

REPORTER: How much danger is this air base in of closing?

FISHER: It's in great danger of closing within this decade because, once that Base Realignment and Closure Commissioner begins, the process grinds through, no matter who has the political clout.

The last time the base was saved in 2005, the region had plenty of clout. Many credited then-Congressman Tom Reynolds with saving the base. At the time, he was the fourth-ranking member of the House of Representatives, and his party, the Republicans, controlled Congress. Part of the base was located within Reynolds' district.

REPORTER: How close were we to having that base close the last time?

REYNOLDS: We were very close.

This time around, the region has no one with Reynolds' clout. The country is broke, and the military already removed some refueling planes from the base the last time.

REPORTER: Do you think they're in trouble this time around with you not in Washington?

REYNOLDS: Well, you're never in trouble until you find yourself on that list. My first optimism is that it won't be on the list, Aaron, based on everything that is going right. If it is, all of us will answer the community's call.

Reynolds is urging current leaders to continue to make the base too valuable to close.

The region's newest house member agrees.

"We can take on a new mission" said Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY 26th), who represents the same Congressional District Reynolds once did. "And I'm going to be pushing for a new mission to come to this area to give us some more security going forward when these cuts take place."

Fisher worries their best efforts may not be enough.

"We need to get working on a transition plan because the money isn't going to be there tomorrow," he said.

The base is also represented by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who has considerable seniority; however, she's a Democrat, and the Republicans control the House.

Fisher believes that, this time around, all of the political clout in the world may not matter, especially given the country's dire financial problems. In the end, he predicts only the most valuable bases will make the cut.

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