Panetta’s political road show

Panetta’s political road show

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went to Western New York Thursday to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closing and also to save the local Congressional seat for a Democrat.

“We are committed to maintaining this base for the future,” Panetta told about 200 Guard and Reserve members gathered in the base hangar. “We are counting on this base. It’s important geographically, it’s important to our mission going forward.”

“Mission accomplished,” said Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), who won the heavily-Republican 26th Congressional District seat in a special election upset last year and has been targeted for defeat by the GOP national leadership.


Hochul, who pleaded for months to get a visit from Panetta, said “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tour the airbase with him personally.”

Rather than close the base — the largest employer in economically-distressed Niagara County — Panetta said that the Defense Department planned to upgrade eight of the 12 C130-H transport aircraft based there and spend $6.1 million on a new flight simulator.

Congress ripped the Panetta and the Air Force’s proposal to slash manpower and aircraft in the Air National Guard. Panetta tried to reassure the many Guardsmen in the audience that they still had his support.

“Our goal is to work with Niagara Falls and the community to do everything possible to try and support this base,” Panetta told members of the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve and the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York State Air National Guard.

“You have kept strong retention and recruiting numbers high, and that’s important,” Panetta said. “I am also committed to exploring new missions for this base in the future.”

Panetta’s trip to the region countered recent fund-raising visits to the area by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to plug for former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Hochul’s GOP opponent, and for Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks in her race to unseat Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

Panetta is an old friend of the 82-year-old Slaughter from his own days in the House. Also on hand to greet Panetta was Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. For 11 years, Panetta and Schumer were roommates in a Capitol Hill apartment.

The fate of the Niagara base has figured prominently in the campaigns of Hochul and Slaughter, and has also become symbolic of similar struggles across the nation to save Guard and Reserve bases that are seen as vital to their communities.

The Niagara base, which has 2,000 personnel and contributes about 3,500 full and part-time jobs to the local economy, was threatened with closure in 2005 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), but heavy lobbying by then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) kept it open.

Before Panetta’s arrival, Maj. Andrea Pitruzzella, a spokesman for the 914th Airlift Wing, said “we have no indications of any base closings.”

Panetta had already told an audience of business leaders in Monterrey, Calif., on Monday that he was giving up on his own plan to have a new round of BRAC closings in 2013, but he was open to a BRAC round in 2015.

“Now is not the time for a BRAC round, particularly when our economy is struggling to recover, but the reality is that the department is going to need to take a hard look at what we do in terms of support infrastructure as we seek to reduce overhead costs,” Panetta said.

The wild card in Panetta’s planning was the threat of sequestration at the end of the year that would add as much as another $600 billion to the $487 billion in defense cuts already underway over the next 10 years.

Hochul was already preparing her future arguments to keep the Niagara base open, stressing its “strategic” importance.

“As the sole military installation in the area, the Air Reserve Station plays a vital role in protecting the security of our nation, our region, and our local community,” Hochul said in a statement that echoed the arguments of House and Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle with Guard and Reserve bases in their districts and states.

Other lawmakers have been making the case for their bases at nearly every House and Senate hearing they attend. Dan Goure, a military analyst at the Lexington institute, described it as “the biggest military food fight in a generation.”

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., locked in a tough re-election bid against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who serves as a colonel in the Army National Guard, never misses an opportunity to rip the Air Force over base closings. Brown said the Air Force “should reconsider these proposals.”

Last week, the battle of the bases led to a political embarassment for President Obama on a visit to Ohio, which is crucial to his re-election drive.

Air Force One landed on Aug. 1 at the Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard base, which also is under threat of closing. As a message to Obama, four C-27J transport planes from the 179th Airlift Wing were parked near Air Force One. Defense budget plans call for the elimination of the C-27J.

The White House put out a statement saying Air Force leaders have “developed a strategy for military restructuring that will impact the C-27J fleet, whose missions can also be fulfilled by the larger C-130 aircraft,” the statement said.

“That said, the president is committed to working with the Department of Defense to find a mission for Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, so that the men and women who serve there can continue to make their important contribution to our national security.”

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“Rather than close the base — the largest employer in economically-distressed Niagara County — Panetta said that the Defense Department planned to upgrade eight of the 12 C130-H transport aircraft based there and spend $6.1 million on a new flight simulator.“
Um, none of that money will go to the Niagara Frontier…

Yes, Niagara Falls is strategically important — to defend our country from those Canadians just over the border!!
But seriously, it bothers me when the SecDef (a career politician of course) mixes his SefDef role and his political work. Cabinet secretaries work for the country and should separate those two efforts. Both Republicans and Democrats should both support our defense efforts but also demand that they be economically justified.
I do not know if Niagara Falls is needed or not, but try to keep the election out of the BRAC process as much as possible.

Agreed Charles. The backpedaling on the Air Guard plans makes it look like either a) The Air Force published a plan the administration didn’t like and didn’t get SECDEF’s approval or b) It quickly became unpopular and in an election year the SECDEF is playing damage control for his boss.

Damage Control.

The sad thing is with BRAC dead not only will R&D be blocked but the Nation Guard and reserve will take the heat for closers and cuts since active duty bases are now off the hook.

A good portion of our country’s military strength is in the Reserve and Guard. Upstate New York’s pilots, flight crews and support personnel are part of that strength, need a place to train and equipment on which to train. NY Air Guard assets are also part of the governor’s emergency reponse team, available to assist search and rescue efforts, disaster relief, etc. The presence of a Air Guard faciity in the Niagara area is a plus for the people of New York and the nation.

Leon P will go when we swept out the trash in Jan 2013. They don’t care for us in the military and we sure as h*** don’t care for Obama and his people.

Civilians complain about military spending. The left feels that military spending steals money from their cherished welfare & social justice agenda.

Then when DOD tries to close a base that is no longer needed or whose functions can be accomplished elsewhere, the sand crabs whine and complain about lost jobs and the local economy. Hypocrisy of the highest order.

Decisions about base closures should be based on subjective criteria that considers only whether the base is an essential component of our national defense and if any necessary functions and infrastructure that do exist can be replaced or done elsewhere at a cost savings. Cost savings and essential functions, that’s the ticket, not whether local sand crabs can survive once the teat is taken away.

Either that or shut up about military spending.

I was given duty at this station (across the street from Bell Helicopter Co.) after my return from Korea.…We had an Interceptor Squadron then.…but to claim its importance as a military base for now or even the future is one hell of a joke! Once Clinton hand picked bonehead, is fast at work for the current Admin.… Practicing his trade as a politician, and NOT any Sec. of Defense?

Be careful…with talk like this, you might end up on the NGAUS’ hate mail list.

The anwer is “b”, damage control. The budget, as submitted, was 100% vetted and approved by the SecDef and his staff. The administration is concerned about getting re-elected, and in this environment the jobs-program offered by the reserve component is more important than the long-term health of the AF or the implications for national strategy further down the road. Simple as that.

Save em all,Mr. Secretary.(Especially strategically,around the world,including stateside).Some may have to go. Look at duallity.

Panetta is just another scum bag dishonest politician, just like his muslim loving anti-christian friend Barack
Obama. They act like they are pro-military, they are not. Obama, Panetta, and Congress (D) are shrinking the
military. How much of a pay raise did they get? A big one. What did the military get? A small one and more broken promises. Are pro-obama people really that dumb? I guess they must be.

(Preach it, Richard. Wondering if you have seen this nugget which I recently saw on the web.)

THE BARACK-COLI PLAGUE

(Some definitions from A Kansas Patriot)

(1) Barack-coli: a veggie the first George Bush hated — or a lowdown bacterium that has become a national plague.

(2) Mecca wafers: Barack’s favorite candy.

(3) White House fence: a well-known border fence not high enough to keep out criminals and anyone who’s illegal.

(4) Nancy Pelosi: BO-toxic.

(For more on BO, Google or MSN “The Background Obama Can’t Cover Up” and “The Anti-Chick-fil-A Jihad.”)

Correct. Obama is trash — he despises our military.

You Sir — and all of our military warriors are the salt of the earth.

Panetta should be selling used cars in Bismark, North Dakota.

We won’t miss him when EL PRESIDENTE and the rest of his pathetic crew are thrown out in November.

Might have been fully vetted but the Air Force screwed the NG and the Army. Their votes didn’t count for as much and the AF health is being defined by the fighter Mafia. Let’s not just gloss over the huge integrity issues that have been discussed expansively in other stories.

Agree this is damage control but not giving a pass to the poor decisions being “vetted” by the Air Force.

Panetta: “We are counting on this base. It’s important geographically, it’s important to our mission going forward.”

Important geographically?

Why, my goodness, yes.

If we don’t maintain an ironclad bastion of air defense at Niagara, we may one day wake up to find the apres-ski boots of the Canadian hordes firmly planted on our necks.

The real reason why this base is going to have to be closed, along with a hundred other backwater Guard and Reserve bases like it, is because of… drumroll… the F-35, a.k.a. The Jet That Ate The Defense Budget.

And what do we find when we look on the list of enthusiastic F-35 backers? We find… drumroll… SECDEF Panetta.

It really was a better time in America when we had Secretaries of Defense who were objective apolitical professionals, instead of the current bunch of worn-out, burned-up political hacks.

Panetta is particularly bad. I can’t recall anyone before him having used his office as blatantly as Panetta has as a campaign-year vehicle.

Maj…Thanks for agreeing with me. As an acknowledged expert you know that no service budget gets to Congress without the SecDef’s (and administration’s) stamp of approval. (Schwartz was a SOF pilot.……)

Not so much agreeing with you as acknowledging truth where ever it comes from.

That’s why we have congressional oversight. Sometimes the branches get it wrong. If we had left it to the Air Force, SECDEF & admin we’d have never gotten the A10. This recent Air Force budget was in that tradition. Not something to be proud of when Congress has to enter the defense fray because branches are making groupthink or culture based decisions which are not in the nation’s interest. The Army went through that when it resisted letting the Air Force becoming a separate branch.

BTW, Branch chairmen are not all powerful (nor always right). A branch’s culture is often too big for one chairmen to change even when they want to.

Yes sir, this base is a serious protector of our nothern frontier from those evil damn Canadians!!! Let’s see, here come the bad guys and what do they do… put some C130’s in the air to intercept jet aircraft… Damn skippy… at what point do the C130’s catch up to the jets? NEVER.

Sad that the Obamanation isn’t putting bases where they might actually accomplish something (besides buying votes for a Democrat) in the way of protecting this nation, like along the Southern border of the USA. I’d bet those C130’s with the right equipment might even be able to provide significant protection along the border with Mexico scanning for illegal aliens traversing across the federal parks and reservations into Arizona, or slipping into Texas and New Mexico. But then again, the Obamanation despises Arizona and Texas.

Oh, I forgot the obvious.… Panetta is a political hack and true Democrat. He isn’t interested in protecting the Department of Defense from political play to help his emperor.

Hello…Hello…Hello…HELLO!!!

leave Bismarck, ND out of this, I served there for four years

BRAC is essential whenever base closing is discussed. This system takes some of the politics out of a closing and still gives local interests a say in closures. BRAC is bi-partisan and has worked well in the past. Not scheduling closing reviews before an election is simply good sense.
Far north airbases might well be particularly valuable to the USAF that fly over the polar region en-route to Asia and Europe. These routes require special skills, training and equipment that can be available in the far north bases.
Certain Army and Marine bases likewise are situated geographically to take advantage of terrains and climate for testing and training.
Note that rational arguments can only be made when facts are involved. Throwing out creepy anti-American zingers won’t win any points.

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