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June 17, 2015 – The Vindicator

There are two factors that will come into play as the future of the 62-year-old Air Force Reserve base in Vienna Township is forged: mission and politics.

Fortunately, the factors are intertwined, which suggests there can be a coordinated effort in the Mahoning Valley to ensure the viability and longevity of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

There are two hurdles that must be overcome if this region is to continue its long-standing relationship with the Department of Defense. The first will occur in 2017 when the recommendations of the federal Base Realignment And Closure Commission are expected.

The commission has a congressional mandate to reduce the number of military installations in this country in order to cut Defense spending. And it won’t be the last.

Over the years, the Youngstown base has succeeded in making the case that it is essential to the nation’s defense strategy and is one of the most cost-effective facilities in the country. The Mahoning Valley’s business, political and community leaders have played a major role in showing that the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by the federal government have paid huge dividends.

But, with 2017 just around the corner, the campaign to keep YARS off the closing list must go into high gear.

The second hurdle will be evident in five years when the C-130H airplanes operated by the 910th Airlift Wing must meet new Federal Aviation Administration and international airspace regulations. There are two options.

The first is update the critical flight navigation and communication components, which may be cost-effective but does not ensure the viability of the base.

The second is much more desirable because it represents the future.

The C-130J is a comprehensive modernization of the C-130H and is being used by the Air Force’s Active Component.

Ryan’s Unwavering Support

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who has been unwavering in his push in Washington to funnel dollars to the base, has introduced language in the Fiscal Year 2016 House Defense Spending Bill to give the Air Force Reserve special-mission units, including the 910th Aerial Spray Squadron, access to new equipment, including the C-130J.

The addition of the technologically advanced aircraft — it has new engines, flight deck and other systems — would not only reduce the operating costs of the 910th, but would enable the Pentagon to consider new missions for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

But, to get to that point, Congressman Ryan must have the support of the other members of Ohio’s congressional delegation, especially Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican.

At the beginning of the editorial, we said the two main factors that would determine the future course of YARS – mission and politics – are intertwined. That’s because Congress controls the purse strings, and while there is a major push to reduce defense spending, there still is the reality that what happens on Capitol Hill matters.

Likewise, the White House can play a key role in determining the future of one of the most-important economic drivers in the Mahoning Valley. The base with its 1,500 jobs has a $180 million impact on the region’s commerce.

The assistant secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, Jay Williams, has firsthand knowledge of YARS and its importance to the region, having served as mayor of the city of Youngstown.

We have consistently called on Williams to use his important position to not only make the case in the White House for the base, but to work with Ryan and other members of Congress to do whatever is necessary to ensure the future viability of the installation.

A front-page story in Sunday’s Vindicator not only laid out in great detail what needs to be done to overcome the potential challenges at YARS, but left little doubt about the commitment of the men and women in uniform and the civilian employees.

Air Force Col. James Dignan, commander of the 910th and the YARS installation, offered this concise view of his role:

“My job is to explain why this little base in a cornfield in Northeast Ohio is militarily important to the defense of the United States.”

Col. Dignan undoubtedly knows that he has the full backing of the people of the Mahoning Valley.

 

The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.