U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the United States Air Force (USAF) to make critical infrastructure upgrades to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS). Schumer and Gillibrand said that NFARS is home to the 914th Refueling Wing’s KC-135 mission and that improvements to NFARS’ apron, runway, hangars, and hydrant system would greatly benefit their ability to execute their critical mention. The senators explained that the USAF can partner with the Defense Logistics Agency (Fuels) and other agencies to fund these projects, and strongly encouraged the USAF to include these essential infrastructure upgrades in their Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP).
“Now that the KC-135 mission is finally up and running at NFARS, we must do everything we can to ensure that this crucial mission operates as smoothly as possible. NFARS is still in serious need of crucial infrastructure upgrades, like improving their runway, hangars, and hydrant system,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m calling on the U.S. Air Force to include these critical infrastructure projects in their Future Years Defense Plan. I was proud to have brought the KC-135 tanker mission to NFARS, and will keep fighting in the Senate for investments that improve NFARS’ mission readiness and promote economic development in Western New York.”
“The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is an invaluable asset to our country’s national defense and trains some of the nation’s best pilots. We need to make sure that its facilities are maintained in top condition,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “Some of the base’s structures, such as the apron, runway, hangars and hydrant system, need critical infrastructure upgrades, and I am calling on U.S. Air Force to help provide the funding necessary to support these projects. NFARS helps keep our nation safe and supports local jobs in Western New York, and I will always to work to make sure that it has the resources it needs.”
According to Schumer and Gillibrand, while NFARS was ultimately not selected by the USAF to house a KC-135 simulator, despite numerous assurances that they would be – potentially harming NFARS’ ability to execute its KC-135 mission – the USAF now has the opportunity to live up to its commitments to NFARS by making strategic infrastructure investments to the base. The senators said that while funding for some of these investments require Air Force MILCON and Operations & Maintenance expenditures, other improvements do not, and can be funded by agencies like the Defense Logistics Agency (Fuels). Therefore, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the USAF to identify the projects of need at NFARS and include them in the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), including airfield apron improvements, runway overrun removal and replacement, modification of Hangar 707, and increased fuel hydrant pump capacity and fuel pits.
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that they helped bring the KC-135 tanker fleet back to NFARS after the departure of the C-130 mission. Schumer and Gillibrand said that previously, NFARS had been flying aging C-130 tactical airlifters. The Air Force upgraded NFARS’s mission to the KC-135 aircraft after the senators’ urging. Schumer has visited NFARS in the past, including last year, and the senators worked with Air Force and National Guard officials to secure funding for the new training facility, building on the structures already in place at NFARS. Last year, Schumer and Gillibrand announced that the base would receive eight KC-135 aircraft, which brought nearly $25 million in investments, jobs, and increased flight hours.
Schumer’s renewed push comes after his recent visit to NFARS last April, where he called for greater investment in the base. Specifically, Schumer announced a major push to secure nearly $50 million worth of long-overdue upgrades for NFARS. During the visit, Schumer highlighted specific projects that are desperately needed, including upgrades to the main security gate, expansion of the existing runway to better accommodate the base’s new KC-135 mission, and create new state-of-the-art facilities for civil engineering and the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. On September 27, 2018, Schumer met with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in-person to advocate for the infrastructure improvements at NFARS. The infrastructure upgrades called for by Schumer would help to increase NFARS’s aircraft capacity so that the facility would have the flexibility to accept up to 16 KC-135’s, or even KC-46s one day.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to the USAF appears below.
Dear Secretary Wilson:
In an effort to work collaboratively with the United States Air Force (USAF) and strengthen the 914th Refueling Wing’s ability to perform its current KC-135 mission, we ask for your assistance in making some infrastructure improvements at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS). It is our understanding that a number of improvements are required for the base’s apron, runway, hangars and hydrant system. While funding for some of these investments require Air Force MILCON and Operations & Maintenance expenditures, other improvements do not. USAF can partner with Defense Logistics Agency (Fuels) and other agencies for funding. Strategic infrastructure projects at NFARS allow the 914th to more efficiently perform their current mission while simultaneously positioning the installation to perform future mission requirements. We would strongly encourage you to identify the projects of need at the installation and include them in the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), including airfield apron improvements, runway overrun removal and replacement, modification of Hangar 707, and increased fuel hydrant pump capacity and fuel pits.
As you know, we have worked diligently to secure a KC-135 simulator at NFARS. Despite assurances by USAF leadership, NFARS was ultimately not selected to house a simulator—potentially harming NFARS’ ability to execute its mission. However, USAF now has the opportunity to live up to its commitments to NFARS by making strategic infrastructure investments at the base. Infrastructure enhancements at NFARS would sustain and enhance its military value to the Air Force and its global mission. As the largest employer in the region and a significant contributor to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), solidifying the base is in everyone’s best interest.
We know that you share our commitment to NFARS and to the men and women who serve there. That is why we believe that you will agree that improving the infrastructure at the base is of the utmost importance. We are grateful for your continued partnership in support of the Air Force and look forward to your response.