Letter in Response to Findings that Air Force Manipulating BRAC System
Washington, DC—Today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter to Anthony Principi, Chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) calling for the removal from the base closure list of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western New York. The letter was sent in light of the revelation made on Thursday that the BRAC Commission Office of the Deputy General Counsel agrees that the Air Force is inappropriately using the 2005 BRAC round for purposes that contradict BRAC’s true intent. NFARS employs over 500 people from Higgins’ district. The economic impact the closing of the base would have would be devastating to Western New York.
“It is shameful that NFARS is on this list to begin with,” said Congressman Higgins, “and now that the BRAC Deputy General Counsel has validated what we in Western New York for a long time have suspected, there is no excuse for not removing NFARS from the base closing list. The games that are being played using NFARS as a pawn are inexcusable and put the safety, economic health and military readiness of Western New York in jeopardy. I urge for the immediate removal of NFARS from the base closure list and hope that the manipulation of the BRAC system by the Air Force be investigated.”
As reported in today’s Buffalo News, a lawyer for BRAC issued a memo using the proposed shutdown of NFARS as the central example of what the Air Force did wrong in drawing up its base-closure plan. The memo cited that the NFARS closing “includes elements common to many of the other Air Force recommendations that are of legal and policy concern to the commission.” The finding is that the Pentagon used the base closure process to reshape the Air Force, something that the BRAC list implicitly was not supposed to function as.
July 15, 2005
The Honorable Anthony J. Principi
Base Realignment and Closure Commission
2521 South Clark Street
Arlington, VA 22202
Dear Chairman Principi:
I was heartened by yesterday’s revelation that the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Office of the Deputy General Counsel agrees with the argument many have made for months, that the Air Force is inappropriately using the 2005 BRAC round for purposes that contradict BRAC’s true intent. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to reiterate the argument that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western New York has no place on the BRAC Closure list. As you will recall, this base has a significant impact on my region, with 500 of its 3,000 employees residing in my Congressional District alone.
As we have discussed, NFARS brings clear and compelling homeland security and military value to both New York State and the nation. The facility’s 914th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and 107th Air Refueling Wing of the Air Force National Guard serve unique and essential roles whose worth has been proven through repeated deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as in the defense of crucial domestic infrastructure including the Niagara Power Project and six international bridge crossings within the area.
The Air Force’s manipulation of the BRAC system to overestimate the payback figures that would be realized from closure of NFARS was a serious enough sign that this base should not have been placed upon the list of recommendations. Its efforts to enact activities beyond the scope of the Commission’s authority, including retiring aircraft when such action has already been barred by statute, transferring Air National Guard units from one state to another, and creating a statutory requirement to base specific aircraft in specific locations, is simply alarming.
I wholeheartedly agree with the arguments made by your Deputy General Counsel, who actually used NFARS as an example of how the BRAC process should not be carried out. I believe that this document is proof of the irreparable damage that the Air Force’s machinations have done to the legitimacy of the BRAC round for this branch of the Armed Services. As I hope you will agree, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station truly does not belong on the list of bases recommended for closure.
Thank you for your consideration of my request. I look forward to your reply. If I may be of further assistance, please have your staff be in touch with Moira Campion with my office at (202) 225-3306.
Brian Higgins Member of Congress