Secretary of Defense Visits Niagara Falls Airbase

August 9, 2012 Updated Aug 9, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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August 9, 2012 Updated Aug 9, 2012 at 6:46 PM EDT

Niagara Falls, N.Y. (RELEASE) Today, Representative Kathy Hochul (NY-26) welcomed Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Western New York and the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS). Rep. Hochul, along with United States Senator Charles Schumer (NY), Representative Brian Higgins (NY-27), and New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, discussed new missions with the Secretary, and he is committed to working with Western New York's congressional delegation in pursuing a new mission.

"After listening to our presentation, I was delighted to hear the Secretary's commitment to maintaining the base. Secretary Panetta's visit to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station gave him the opportunity to see the base and its value firsthand and to understand the vital role the base plays in protecting our regional and national security," Rep. Hochul said. "I look forward to continuing to work with the Secretary and my colleagues, as well as the leadership of the base, to preserve the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station."

Rep. Hochul, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, personally invited Secretary Panetta to visit the base at a meeting at the Pentagon in March.

Rep. Hochul has led the fight in the House to push back on severe cuts proposed by the Department of Defense. She has met regularly with senior military leadership, including Secretary Panetta, and has worked closely with the Western New York Congressional delegation to ensure the 107th Air Wing maintains a strong presence at NFARS. Additionally, Hochul co-sponsored an amendment included in the National Defense Authorization Act that protects installations like the 107th Airlift Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Base. This provision was adopted by the House of Representatives.

Also in attendance for today's meeting with Secretary Panetta were Major General Patrick Murphy, Adjutant General, New York State; Major General Verle Johnston, Commander, New York Air National Guard (ANG); Brigadier General Anthony German, Chief of Staff, New York ANG; Colonel Jim McCready, 107th Airlift Wing Commander; Colonel Allan Schwartzmiller, Installation Commander / 914th Airlift Wing Commander; Merrell Lane, Chairman of Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC); John Cooper, Co-Chairman of NIMAC; and Howard Zemsky, Chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer released the following statement after he joined U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta today to tour the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and visit with troops:

"Secretary Panetta's visit was most productive. As someone that was his roommate for 11 years while we were Congressmen, I know that Secretary Panetta was genuinely receptive and compassionate during this visit. It was clear to me he saw the close and intimate relationship between the base and the community - perhaps the closest of any base of its kind in America.

"We are using the same blueprint that we used when BRAC was hanging over our heads in 2005, and it looked like the base might close. Just as we brought BRAC Chairman Principi here, and he became a believer, we are optimistic that the same is occurring with Secretary Panetta.

"The Secretary assured us that the base would not close, and now our mission is to ensure that it doesn't shrink . To that end, we must keep the same number of C-130s here and find a new mission. The mission that the Secretary seems to be most interested in is ISR - Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance - because of our close relationship to the border and our proximity to both Ft. Drum and Syracuse, one of very few locations in the U.S. with potential for continued and increased drone missions.

"I thank Congresswoman Kathy Hochul for her leadership role in this visit today, and the entire WNY delegation, including Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Higgins, whom I know will fight to make sure that the base remains at full strength."