Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe made the following remarks at Wheatfield's Memorial Day ceremony on Monday:
"This past week, I had the privilege to travel to Washington with the Niagara Military Affairs Council to work with our elected officials to make sure we help keep the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station alive and well.
"We flew early on Tuesday (May 14) and went directly to the Capitol visiting rooms. There we first met Creighton Greene, professional staff member of the Armed Services Committee. The most memorable point he made is that nobody in Congress is interested in having another BRAC. In fact, he said that the last BRAC really didn't work, that politics kept the BRAC from achieving the savings required.
"We next met with Congressman Chris Collins who was very optimistic about the future of Niagara. Yes, it looks like we will be losing at least eight planes for three years. But the 107th (Airlift Wing) will be getting an RPA mission (remote piloted aircraft). He also said that in the latest agreement between parties, we will also be getting a C-130 simulator and the building in which it will reside.
"The congressman also said that nobody in the House wants another BRAC. One scary item he stated: if the Air Force closes the base, we will likely also lose the Niagara Falls airport as the NFTA will not be able to run the airport on its own.
"We next met with two staff members from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office. They stated that the senator is happy to lead the fight to make sure that the airplanes will come back to Niagara, sooner rather than later. Further, they agreed to work with Rep. Collins staff to try to bring the secretary of defense to Niagara later this year.
"Finally, we met with Brian Lepore from the government accountability office. Here I noted, "government/accountability!" Aren't these mutually exclusive terms? He actually agreed, but went on to say that they do many important reports requested by Congress. He said that the 2005 BRAC cost $35 billion to go through the process, and likely saved only $2.2 billion per year. BRAC just didn't work.
"On Wednesday, we went early to the Pentagon and met with two generals together: Brigadier Gen. Bruce Prunk from the Air National Guard, and Major Gen. Richard Haddad. They mentioned that a cyber mission may be possible for Niagara. They also gave a timeline for the simulator where a request for proposal could go out by Nov. 13, work starting as early as March 15 of 2014.
"Gen. Haddad did state that he felt any Air Force Reserve unit should be located at an active base. NIMAC will start looking into the possibility of becoming an active base. He also noted that the Air Force does want a BRAC; to force Congress to make the tough decisions to reduce costs.
"One point brought home by Gen. Prunk was that an RPA is not a drone. An RPA has eyes that are far better than any pilot, and it is under the complete control of a pilot. That pilot just happens to be elsewhere such that, if an aircraft is shot down, no pilot goes down with it.
"We met with William Booth, deputy assistant secretary for force management. He mentioned that a SKMR or Strategic Corps Management Review is underway; that Defense Secretary Hagel is asking tons of questions. He also stated that the 2005 BRAC did not active the needed goals. He felt that the Air Force needs to close some larger, active but unnecessary bases to get the savings required by Congress.
Secretary Booth also mentioned that he was in the Pentagon on 9/11; on that day, he was a target. This fact proves his point: 'The Air Force has to have the maximum capability to meet the crisis which we haven't yet seen!' In other words, be ready ... for anything ... embrace change.
"We met with Kathleen Ferguson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations and logistics. She is important to Niagara as we have the epitome of shared services between units with varying missions, and hope to do even more. We explained to her that NIMAC is working with the base leadership and NFTA to help reduce their cost of protecting us.
"Gen. Les Kodliek mentioned that there has not been an American pilot killed by enemy aircraft since 1953. We have and must maintain control of the skies.
"Gen. Kodliek also mentioned a friend of his, Corey Hughes, who, while on a radio directing air support, saw a fellow soldier get hit while exposed. Hughes dropped the radio and ran through heavy fire to pull out that soldier back to safe cover. He then jumped back to his radio and continued to direct air fire and help win the battle. We still have heroes.
"In closing, it is the mission of the 914th Airlift Wing is to be current, qualified and ready to fight! Our trip to Washington shows that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is alive and well, at least for the foreseeable future."