New Mission Likely for 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls

December 19, 2012 Updated Dec 20, 2012 at 10:33 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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December 19, 2012 Updated Dec 20, 2012 at 10:33 AM EDT


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) The Fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Bill will be voted on later this week.

Providing $633.3 billion for national defense programs, it also includes money that will help save hundreds of jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Under the plan, the 107th will get a new mission piloting drone aircraft like the Air Force Predator or Reaper.

Pilots will be stationed in Niagara Falls and will remotely fly drone aircraft based in Nevada, says Congressman Brian Higgins.

US Senator Chuck Schumer says the 107th's fleet of four C-130 aircraft will be saved under the budget plan.

"We will have to continue to fight for the C-130's in future years, but this year, we are in good shape," added Schumer.

Earlier this year, the US Air Force proposed cutting 830 jobs from the 107th New York Air National Guard Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls, and removing its fleet of four C-130 cargo planes.

The cuts would have essentially forced the 107th to a point where they no longer existed as a military unit.

A determined effort was mounted by the local community and Western New York Congressional delegation, resulting in having Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visit the airbase in August.

While the Air Force continued to push for deep cuts to the Nation's Air Guard Units, Governors across the country, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, argued that losing those forces would hurt disaster relief efforts in the state.

On Tuesday, House and Senate conferees announced they had rejected many of the the Air Force plans to scale back the Air National Guard units.

The Defense Authorization Bill must now be voted on and sent to the President for his signature, something that US Senator Charles Schumer believes will happen quickly.

"I believe it will pass both the House and Senate by Friday, just in time for Christmas."

The Defense funding plan is $1.7 billion more than President Obama requested, and there is some concern that he might veto it.

"I think the Delegation has been speaking with one voice to the Administration about the importance of this," said Congressman Brian Higgins.

Higgins adding that he is confident that the President will sign the bill.