Ryan’s presence in Congress important to AF base’s future

With former Gov. Ted Strick- land not making a comeback bid next year, speculation is rampant as to who will run for the Democratic Party nomination. Mahoning Valley Congressman Tim Ryan’s name is being mentioned, along with Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and federal consumer czar Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general.

From where we sit, Ryan, who is beginning his sixth, two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives, would be giving up a sure thing to run for an office now occupied by Republican John Kasich, whose approval rating has been climbing since he was sworn in two years ago. To be sure, Kasich defeated incumbent Gov. Strickland in the 2010 election, but the margin of victory was a mere 2 percent.

The sure thing for Ryan is his representing a congressional district that is so heavily Democratic that even the venal Republicans in Columbus were unable to tear it apart. In redrawing the congressional district boundaries last year, the GOP majority in the Ohio General Assembly made sure that most of the 16 districts would be in Republican hands for the next decade. Thus, Democrats now represent only four, including Ryan’s 13th.

There’s another compelling reason for the Valley’s congressman to remain in Washington: The future of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

A reprieve

Although the base was granted a reprieve from the budget cuts contained in the 2013 defense spending bill, the next round of military installation closings or realignments by the Pentagon could come next year or in 2015.

According to the Kiplinger Letter, more than 130 major facilities were closed in the first five rounds, the last one in 2005.

“The next round will likely slash several dozen facilities around the country,” the Letter noted. “The Pentagon says more closings are necessary to cut excess capacity and save money. But bases are an important part of local economies, providing many direct and indirect jobs.”

Don’t we know it.

Last week, The Vindicator published a story that showed the Youngstown Air Reserve Station pumped as estimated $123 million into the Mahoning Valley’s economy in 2012, an increase of $8 million from 2011.

While the facility has bought a year with the “strategic pause” in the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill, there is no guarantee that it will escape a reduction in force in the foreseeable future.

That’s why this region needs to have Rep. Ryan in Congress. Not only has he established a close working relationship with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats in the House, he also serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee and the defense subcommittee.

Even a minority member of the committee is in a strong position to go to bat for his district.

The pause, which was arranged by Ohio’s two senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, prevents the Air Force from reassigning C-130 military transport planes from the 910th Airlift Wing at the air reserve station in Vienna Township. The reassignment would have resulted in the loss of 97 traditional part-time reservists and 33 full-time equivalent federal civilian employees and Air Reserve technicians. The economic impact would have been significant.

The Youngstown Station, adjacent to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, is home to the 910th Wing and Navy and Marine units.

Infusion of money

Expenditures for and spending by the 2,000 citizen airmen, sailors, Marines, federal civilian employees and contractors, who primarily live and do business in the Mahoning Valley and other parts of Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, contribute to YARS’ infusion of money into the area’s economy.

The 910th maintains the Defense Department’s only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects, pests and undesirable vegetation and disperse oil spills in larger bodies of water.

Last year, pilots flew more than 1,200 sorties for pilot proficiency training using the 9,300-foot runway shared with Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport; more than 3,200 proficiency landings on the 3,500-foot assault landing strip owned by the 910th Airlift Wing; more than 2,200 sorties and more than 5,193 hours in support of training and operational requirements.

By any measure, it’s a major participant in the nation’s overall military readiness profile.

“The support of the local community and organizations, such as the Youngstown Air Reserve Base Community Council, has helped contribute to our success and the ability of all of our reservists to serve their country and their civilian employers,” Brig. Gen. Brian Dominguez, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing at YARS and the reserve station, told The Vindicator.

The Valley, in particular, and the nation, in general, cannot afford to have this important military installation undermined in any way.

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