Local
2:36 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Pentagon plan targets jobs at Niagara Falls air base

A Pentagon plan calls for the elimination of 845 jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station by the year 2017.

The cost-cutting initiative eliminates jobs associated with the Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing, one of two units stationed at the base.  The number of C-130 cargo planes at the base would be reduced from 11 to eight. 

It's all part of a Defense Department effort to cut 25,000 total military positions over the next five years and save $484 billion over the next decade.  The other unit at the base, the 914th Air Support Group, would not be affected. 

Threats of cuts to the Niagara County base have spurred area lawmakers to search for a new mission for the 107th.  It is unclear whether the Pentagon intends to disestablish the unit altogether. 

Rep. Kathy Hochul says she will talk about the unit's future today with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

"There's cyber-security, there's intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance missions, [and there is] special operations. I've made the case that while they may not be relying on the C-130s as they have in the past, why can't they be looking at our base, which has had $80 million worth of investments in the last six years, as part of the military of the future?," Hochul told WBFO and AM 970 News.

Hochul says the elected officials are also pushing to create a federal campus, which would add border security workers. There has also been discussion about basing border surveillance drones in Niagara Falls.

"That proximity to the border with Canada gives us a niche and an argument to make that this is a perfect location for the Customs and Border Protection operations," said Hochul.

The base is the largest employer in Niagara County.