Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, asked community members in Moon Township to contact Sen. Bob Casey, R-Scranton, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, and urge them to support upcoming legislation that would delay a closure of the 911th Airlift Wing.
Murphy, speaking at a town hall meeting Monday at the Moon Municipal Building, said the Senate will take up draft legislation later this week that would prohibit the Air Force from shutting down the Moon base through Sept. 2013.
He said the Air Force has renewed its efforts to close the air wing.
Air Force officials have again taken the initial steps toward shuttering the 911th after March 2013—when a law put in place to delay a closure of the base expires, Murphy said.
"There are so many absurd things happening in this process," Murphy said at the meeting. "We are so frustrated with the Pentagon right now."
Murphy described a disconnect between elected officials and military brass on the issue. He said the Air Force has not yet conducted a public cost-analysis of the base's operations.
In October, the Navy broke ground on a new operations center at the 911th. Murphy said it is unclear if Air Force officials are aware of the new facility. More than $50 million has been invested in the base's infrastructure in the past five years, the Congressman said.
"I don't think they know that the 316th (Sustainment Command) is across the street," Murphy said. "I don't think they knew that the commissary is being built (across the street from the 911th)."
Air Force officials say closing the 911th will save it $300 million annually. Officials have cited the wing's aging C-130 aircraft, which are among the oldest still flying in the military, as a reason for the closure.
Murphy said the military has used flawed personnel figures from the 911th as reason to shutter the base: The 911th claims it has 312 civilian personnel employed, while the Air Force said it is authorized to have 290 civilian employees.
Under guidelines from the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the Pentagon must obtain Congressional approval to close a military installation that employs more than 300 civilians.
Murphy said the 911th's use of runways at Pittsburgh International Airport provide a cost savings to the Pentagon: The base pays just $20,000 a year for full use of the airport's runways.
"We are still getting the Air Force to look at and examine facts about this base," Murphy said.
The Air Force announced its most recent attempt to shut down the 911th and lay off its personnel in March. In July, Congress approved a defense appropriations bill that temporarily halted all impending military base closures, including the 911th.
The 911th also faced closure attempts in 2005 and in the 1990s.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, alongside Moon manager Jeanne Creese, Robinson manager Aaron Bibro and state senator-elect Matt Smith were on hand for the meeting.
"It's a continuous issue," Mustio said. "That's what's so frustrating about it. (The 911th) is such an integral part of this community."
Murphy said rumors of an upcoming closure of the 911th prompted the town hall meeting.
"We wanted to get some factual information out there," he said.
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