The news out of Washington Tuesday wasn't good for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and members of the 107th Air National Guard.
Defense budget cuts planned over the next five years could end up cutting all of the approximately 850 National Guard jobs at the base, eliminating the entire wing. Cuts are to begin in fiscal year 2013.
"We're going into high gear now," promised Merrell Lane, chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, which with the local congressional delegation has successfully blocked past efforts to remove units from the base or close the base.
He noted that this situation is different than the Base Closure and Realignment Commission process that occurred in 2005 in that it is a primarily a budgetary action.
Any plans for Air Force (914th Airlift Wing) job cuts at the base have yet to be announced.
"Today's announcement raises serious and substantial questions for the Pentagon," Lane said Tuesday. "Where is the objective, transparent and defendable process, which led to this decision, and by what metrics was the 107th selected for this fate rather than a new mission, which the 107th would have embraced, and in which they would excel."
"The citizen soldiers of the 107th, who are friends and neighbors that have sacrificed on so many occasions to defend our country, deserve a better result than to fall victim to a budget balancing effort by the Pentagon," added NIMAC Vice Chairman John A. Cooper Sr.
NIMAC officials plan to meet as soon as possible with congressional leaders.
Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and representatives Kathy Hochul, NY-26, Louise Slaughter, NY-28, and Brian Higgins, NY-27, issued the following joint statement:
"We call on the Air Force to reverse this decision and to identify a new mission for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. As a united delegation, along with the support of Gov. Cuomo, we will continue to fight to protect this base, the positions it supports, and the thousands of Western New Yorkers that rely on its services. The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is an essential part of our nation's military force, and we will not rest in the effort to find a new mission."
Niagara Falls is not alone in job loss. Net reductions of 3,900 active-duty, 5,100 Air National Guard and 900 Air Force Reserve positions nationwide and in several U.S. territories are planned.