Defense Secretary to Visit Falls Air Base

March 8, 2012 Updated Mar 8, 2012 at 8:58 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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March 8, 2012 Updated Mar 8, 2012 at 8:58 PM EDT

(Niagara Falls, NY) Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (D-NY26) tells Eyewitness News that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has agreed to come and tour the Niagara Air Reserve Station.

"We had a significant development yesterday. Less than 24 hours ago, I went to the Pentagon and I made our case, one more time, to Secretary Panetta. I invited him to come and see first hand what we all know in Western New York - that this is a critical component of our national security," says Hochul.

Reaction to the Secretary's future visit brought a quick response from members of the civilian lobby group - Niagara Military Affairs Council.

"I'm very excited. Once the Secretary gets here and sees the facilities, and meets some of the men and women that serve in both the 914th and the 107th, he'll come away with a very good picture of what Western New York is all about."

Earlier this week, the US Air Force announced major budget cuts that would severely impact the Niagara Falls Airbase.

854 jobs would be eliminated at the New York Air National Guard 107th Airlift Wing.

Three C-130 transport planes would also be taken from the base.

Since the announcement, the Western New York Congressional delegation, State lawmakers, and the Governor's office have been vigorously lobbying officials in Washington, DC to change the proposed cuts.

"Letters to the Department of Defense - Secretary Panetta - how important this base is, they can only help," adds US Senator Charles Schumer.

Officials say the Defense Secretary is still adjusting his schedule and no date has been set yet for his visit.