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Hochul, Colleagues Pressing Panetta About New Mission for Falls Base | News

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Hochul, Colleagues Pressing Panetta About New Mission for Falls Base
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The full-court press continues to save the Niagara Falls Air Base from closure.

While the base is not currently on any government closure list, one of its units recently lost its mission, which has many supporters very worried about its future.

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul said Sunday that she and her colleagues have been in the ear of the Defense Secretary and are pressing him to give the base a new mission to ensure its long-term value to the military, which is undergoing a series of big budget cuts.

"I said on the phone to the Secretary of the Department Defense, just a couple days ago, give us a chance," Hochul said. "With our proximity on the border with Canada, with our highly-educated work force, and people who have a great work ethic up here, give us a chance with a new mission. And we're waiting to hear the results of those conversations shortly."

Last month, the Air Force has decided to do away with the flying mission of the Base's Air National Guard unit, the 107th Air Lift Wing. The Air Force Reserve Unit, the 914th, is staying put and getting new planes.

Hochul says she spoke to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta twice in last two weeks, in person and over the phone, urging him to consider locating a new defense mission here. She suggested the base could play a role in cyber security because the region's cool climate is hospitable to big computer servers.

Also, the base could have a future related to border security because of our proximity to Canada.

REPORTER: Has the Defense Secretary or anyone from the Air Force, indicated that there may be another mission coming, and if so, what could it be?

HOCHUL: At this point, they're pretty tight lipped, as you can imagine. But we have been pressing hard. In fact, when the Secretary of Defense, Panetta, was testifying before us a week ago, I went up to him, and he says, "I know, I know, I know all about the air base. " That's all he is hearing about, so we've gotten through to them, and they will say it's a military decision, and I'm saying, please, if there is any discretion to be had at all, this is a huge job creator in our area, the economic impact is over $160 million per year, and that would be a tremendous hit.

REPORTER: What do you think the chances are of saving the base long-term?

HOCHUL: It's hard to predict.

The good news, according to Congresswoman Hochul, is that the Defense Department has invested $80 million into the base during the last decade. The Congresswoman said it would be economically foolish to waste those investments.

 

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