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Pittsburgh Joint Air Reserve Station

Greater Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has seen remarkable growth in passenger enplanements since it first opened its doors in 1952. In that year, less than 600,000 passengers were enplaned. In 1990, passenger enplanements totaled over 8.5 million. Although the Airport has seen an overall steady growth in the last four decades, much of this growth can be attributed to causes and events in the aviation industry. This is especially true in more recent times with the advent of deregulation and the development of the "hub and spoke" system that has proven its efficiency to the airline industry. Pittsburgh International Airport is so big; you could fit Atlanta and Chicago O'Hare airports within its boundaries. PIT is now the fourth largest landmass airport in the nation and is within three hours flight time of every North American city east of the Mississippi (and about 60 minutes from Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago). With its impressive infrastructure including four runways 8,100 ft. (2,469 m) to 11,500 ft. (3,505 m) long - and enough space for another two - PIT has plenty of slots to spare and can handle anything from single-seat light aircraft to a B747-400.

During the summer of 2003 nine Air Force Reserve Command installations were re-designated joint bases or stations to reflect the multiservice use of the facilities. The locations and their new designations are: Dobbins Joint Air Reserve Base, Ga.; Grissom JARB, Ind.; Homestead JARB, Fla.; March JARB, Calif.; Minneapolis-St. Paul Joint Air Reserve Station, Minn.; Niagara Falls JARS, N.Y.; Pittsburgh JARS, Pa.; Westover JARB, Mass.; and Youngstown JARS, Ohio.

BRAC 2005

Secretary of Defense Recommendation: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Pittsburgh International Airport (IAP) Air Reserve Station (ARS) and relocate 911th Airlift Wing's (AFRC) eight C-130H aircraft to Pope/Fort Bragg to form a 16 aircraft Air Force Reserve/active duty associate unit. It would also relocate AFRC operations and maintenance manpower to Pope/Fort Bragg. Flight related ECS (aeromedical squadron) would relocate to Youngstown-Warren Regional APT ARS. Finally DoD recommended to relocate all remaining Pittsburgh ECS and headquarters manpower to Offutt AFB, NE. Air National Guard units at Pittsburgh are unaffected.

Secretary of Defense Justification: The major command's capacity briefing reported that Pittsburgh ARS's land constraints prevented the installation from hosting more than 10 C-130 aircraft. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 581 jobs (322 direct jobs and 259 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Pittsburgh, PA, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (less than 0.1 percent).

Community Concerns: The key issues for Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station pertained to the availability of land and whether it was considered in the Air Force model used to calculate military value. Community advocates contended that 50 to 100 acres are available for expansion of the airport, and cited memoranda of agreements since 1993 with the Pittsburgh International Airport to use an additional 21.7 acres adjacent to the Air Reserve Station. Community representatives maintained that DoD's recommendations ignored opportunities for jointness and pointed to a report which noted that the installation supports the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) by providing 9,000 applicants annually with testing, billeting, and dining, resulting in annual savings for the Army of $1.2 million. Additionally, the installation firing range is used by 50 local, State, and Federal (military and civilian) agencies and is one of the few ranges that allows for the firing of .50 caliber ammunition.

Advocates also expressed concerns about the base exchange, credit union, chapel, fitness center, consolidated club, and billeting, which are used by the 911th AW, the 171st ARW and the 99th Regional Readiness Command. The base also hosts the regional Casualty Assistance Office, and the 911th Communications Center provides Communications Security (COMSEC) and classified storage capability to over 50 Federal agencies and 100 percent of the Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing's communication needs. Last, advocates stated that the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) value used in the Cost of Base Realignment Actions (COBRA) model for calculating economic impact was incorrect.

Commission Findings: The Department of Defense recommendation for realigning Pope Air Force Base, NC; closing the Pittsburgh IAP ARS PA; and realigning Yeager Air Guard Station (AGS), WV was part of a larger effort to restructure the C-130 fleet. The need for restructuring was driven by the age of the C-130E model aircraft and the participation in the replacement C-130J procurement program.

Given the importance of airlift to the Fort Bragg mission, there was concern regarding how the Air Force recommendation would be implemented. Other than the recommendation to form an Active Duty/Reserve Associate unit with the 16 C-130s transferred to Pope from Yeager and Pittsburgh, there was no discussion of how airlift operations would continue to be conducted in support of Fort Bragg. Particular concern focused on the loss of an execution planning cell and the informal working relationships that currently exists between elements at Fort Bragg and the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope. In light of the importance of the Fort Bragg mission to national security, the Commission found the proposed action had the potential to detrimentally affect that mission. Therefore, the Commission modified the DoD recommendation to establish an Air Force Air Operation Support Group at Pope AFB.

The justification for realigning Yeager and closing Pittsburgh was based on a 2003 data call. These data indicated that Yeager was unable to host more than eight C-130s and that Pittsburgh was unable to host more than ten C-130s. The Air Force had previously determined that the optimal size for a C-130 squadron was 16, but that 12 was an acceptable number for an Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard Squadron. Whether the data were outdated or the response misinterpreted, the Commission found that the resulting conclusions were incorrect. The Wing Commander at Yeager AGS, WV reported that the unit can park 12 C-130s. Commission staff observed eleven aircraft parked at the installation during our base visit.

Rather than closing Pittsburgh IAP ARS, the Commission determined that it should be realigned as an enclave on which a Regional Joint Readiness Center would be established. Since the Commission retained C-130 Aircraft at Pittsburgh, the Commission urges that the Department of Defense take affirmative action to identify and permanently locate and operate an optimum number of C-130 aircraft as a detachment to the Pittsburgh IAP ARS enclave in order that it may support the mission of the Regional Joint Readiness Center as well as current Air Force Reserve Command missions.

The Commission found reason to be concerned about Little Rock AFB's ability to receive the recommended number of aircraft. BRAC staff verified that a comprehensive capacity analysis had not been conducted. Consequently, the total Military Construction costs to accommodate all the C-130 BRAC related moves to Little Rock were originally underestimated by approximately 63 percent. Recent USAF estimates are $246.7 million.

The Commission also found that the existing national security issues and the need to support the Fort Bragg mission overruled the deviations from the BRAC selection criteria. The Commission established a C-130 wing at Quonset State Airport Air Guard Station, Rhode Island; Channel Islands Air Guard Station, California; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; and at Yeager Air Guard Station, West Virginia; consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Reserve Laydown plan.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, 2 and 3, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:

Realign Pittsburgh International Airport (IAP) Air Reserve Station (ARS), Pennsylvania. Establish a contiguous enclave at the Pittsburgh ARS, Pennsylvania sufficient to support continued operations of the reserve station units, including flight operations, and compatible with combined use of the civilian airport by the Air Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian users. Within that enclave, establish a Regional Joint Readiness Center (RJRC) at the Pittsburgh International Air Station with the mission of providing civil-military operations, homeland security and community-based medical support to the Department of Defense and the Department of homeland security National Incident Management Plan and the National Response Plan. The enclave and RJRC will be staffed at the current manning level of the ARS. The PAA and personnel allocations of Air National Guard units at Pittsburgh are unaffected by this recommendation.


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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:55:31 ZULU