Members of Western New York's Congressional delegation are pressing the Department of Homeland Security to establish missions at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
In a letter to the acting secretary of DHS, Congressmen Chris Collins and Brian Higgins, joined U.S. sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer in urging the department to consider NFARS as a regional location for several DHS missions, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customers and Border Protection, and certain operations of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The delegation stressed the strategic advantages of the NFARS, including the secure nature of the facility and the fact that the closest Coast Guard response team is currently based in Detroit. Adding Coast Guard helicopters and other critical safety equipment to the NFARS would be a benefit to both DHS and the surrounding region, they said.
The letter urges DHS leadership to consider the cost effectiveness of such a move. While DHS studies locations for regional operations in the northeast, the delegation believes the immediate and appropriate space available at the NFARS makes the location an ideal fit for DHS and American taxpayers.
"The Western New York delegation is committed to working together to ensure that the NFARS remains a critical military installation and a significant source of employment and economic activity for Western New York," said Collins. "Locating regional DHS missions at the NFARS would be a win for both the federal government and our local community."
"The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station plays a critical role in our community and our country's national security," said Higgins. "We need to position the base for longevity and strength for generations to come."
"Bringing a Homeland Security mission to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station would help the agency leverage the major assets we have right on site, including the air field, firing range and medical clinic," said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "This is a highly cost-effective method that would give the agency access to these resources it wouldn't otherwise have - and it's a step we should take to keep this economic engine for Western New York."
"Niagara Falls Reserve Station is ideally suited by its geography, resources, and experience for Department of Homeland Security missions," said Schumer. "The feds should take advantage of Niagara Falls existing capacity and proximity to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the international border with Canada by locating regional DHS missions at NFARS, where they could conduct border security as well as search and rescue missions. A DHS station at NFARS will help to build synergies and opportunities for collaboration between various federal agencies and local research partners, and I will work with my colleagues from Western New York to see this important plan come to fruition."
NFARS is currently home to the 914th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard. The Niagara Military Affairs Council has been working with local and Congressional leaders to find new missions for the base to ensure that it won't fall victim to any future base closings.