WASHINGTON (KDKA) — The decision to close the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township has engendered bipartisan criticism from local officials, but what about the Commander in Chief?
KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano asked President Obama at the White House on Monday.
Delano: “What can you tell folks in western Pennsylvania about the status of that base? Is it going to close?”
Obama: “Well, I think what people can understand is that we’ve got enormous budget pressures. Everybody wants to reduce the deficit. Congress approved reducing the deficit by close to $500 billion over the next 10 years.”
The president says there’s more at stake when it comes to national defense.
“What I’ve said to the military is your No. 1 priority is keeping the American people safe, and you present me with a plan that does that in the most responsible way possible while meeting this budget figure that Congress itself set.”
So far, he seems to have an open mind on the 911th.
Obama: “So we’re not going to be making of any of these decisions either in isolation or casually.”
Delano: “So it’s not a done deal?”
Obama: “Well, nothing’s ever a done deal when it comes to our military budgets. What I do think is important for people to recognize is that if we’re going to reduce our deficit in a serious way, then that means that we’ve got to make some very tough choices.”
Sally Haas, president of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, is happy the issue is now in front of the president.
“We wanted it on his radar screen, and this is what happened now. We’re excited about that,” Haas says.
Haas sees progress in efforts to save the 911th from budget cuts and hopes the president and other leaders are open to the cost-effectiveness of the 911th.
“I think they’re all going to look at this and say, Pittsburgh needs to stay open.”
Supporters of the 911th are optimistic not just because the president now knows about the controversial proposed closing.
Haas says General Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of Staff, promised Monday to review additional information that reinforces the strategic value and smart investment of keeping the 911th open.