Stratton Air National Guard Base may not lose four C-130H aircraft slated to be transferred next fall under reductions proposed by the Air Force.
An 11th-hour amendment to block the relocation or retirement of C-130 aircraft throughout the country may mean they will remain in Glenville into the foreseeable future. The House Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Bill that would prevent the relocation if it is adopted.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said changes to the bill have received bipartisan support in the committee. The bill is expected to go before the Rules Committee next week and could go before the full House for a vote before the end of the month.
“We have literally worked on this month by month,” Tonko said of the effort by New York’s congressional delegation to keep the aircraft at the base.
The Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly backed a $642 billion defense bill ignoring the Pentagon’s cost-saving request for another round of domestic base closings. The committee crafted a military spending plan that exceeds the level President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer by more than $8 billion.
The cuts originally recommended would have trimmed $8.7 billion from the Air Force budget and affected 60 installations. The plan would have retired more than 200 aircraft by October and nearly 300 more over five years.
The four aircraft at Stratton were originally slated to be either retired or moved to a yet-to-be-determined base starting in 2013. The changes wouldn’t have affected the mission of the LC-130 ski planes used by the 109th Airlift Wing in connection with the National Science Foundation’s work at the polar caps.
The 109th has nearly 500 guardsmen who sometimes fly 3,000 cumulative hours in a matter of weeks. The base employs nearly 1,400 people, has an annual economic impact estimated at more than $123 million and flies missions to Greenland and the South Pole with the only ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft in the Air Force inventory.
In January, New York’s congressional delegation co-authored a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urging him to leave the aircraft at the base. They argued relocating or retiring the planes would hurt the readiness and training of the 109th airmen.
“Our goal here is to keep them for the long haul,” Tonko said Thursday.