Joined by members of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer stood outside the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Monday, urging fellow federal lawmakers to approve $50 million for several capital and security upgrades he says are critical to the base and its employees.
Schumer says in a budget that increased military spending by $100 billion, a move he supported, his desired allocation for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is reasonable.
"I worked very closely with Secretary of Defense (James) Mattis to get an increase in military spending. As I worked with him I said 'I'm going to need your help for some of our projects in New York.' And he certainly agreed to have an open ear to all of those," Schumer said.
The local installation's "overdue" needs, according to the senator, are upgrades at the main security gate, an expanded runway to better accommodate the new KC-135 air refueling mission, improved stormwater management and expanded or new buildings for several critical services including communication, civil engineering, Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron operations and centralized munitions storage.
An estimated 2,600 people work at the Niagara Falls base, which is the largest employer in Niagara County. Its estimated annual economic impact, according to a 2015 Niagara County Center for Economic Development report, was $200 million.
"Since 1995, the Niagara Military Affairs Council has advocated for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, in Washington, DC and in Albany, and in Western New York," said NIMAC chairman John Cooper. "In 2005, (Base Realignment and Closure Act) BRAC was the most serious situation action that we'd dealt with to date. But after the release of the United States Air Force's structure document in 2012, that indicated significant changes in structure of the Air Force, we understood the need for enduring missions here."
They now include the 914th Air Refueling Wing and the 107th Attack Wing. Schumer explained why air refueling, and locating such a mission in Niagara Falls, is relevant to the United States military.
"One of the major things that our military supplies our allies with is (air) refueling. They don't have the technology to do it. We do," Schumer said. "When foreign leaders ask for things, refueling is at the top of the list and NFARS is at the top of the list in training our men and women of the Air Force and military."