While the local air station gets a temporary reprieve from downsizing, probably until after the November presidential election, local leaders have a window of opportunity to reverse course and upsize.
The powerful U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure to temporarily stop the transfer of aircraft and personnel out of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna. The measure, a ''strategic pause,'' included in the Senate's 2013 defense appropriations bill, preserves planes and personnel at the facility in Vienna for at least one more year.
That's not surprising during an election season. This is a politically dangerous time to announce federal cuts to a region and a politically advantageous time to deliver funds, or, as in this case, delay a cut. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is in a close election battle, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who lobbies for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, both touted the local air station's importance.
The full Senate must now approve the spending bill, but there is no timetable. The House approved its version of a defense appropriations bill in July that also included a strategic pause for the proposal at the air reserve station.
Chances are no serious decision will be forthcoming until after the November General Election. That's when it will be politically safe to tinker with local funding.
That means the Mahoning Valley has some time to turn a potential loss into a gain, perhaps a large gain. As the presidential and senatorial hopefuls canvass the region for votes, leaders in Trumbull and Mahoning counties should conduct their own campaign endorsing the unique service that the air station's 910th aerial spray unit provides to the nation. The station also houses joint military personnel from the Navy and Marines, and is strategically located near the Camp Ravenna joint military training center. The Pentagon favors operations that combine military branches as part of its fiscal adjustments.
About 1,700 people work at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. They pump more than $100 million into the Valley's economy.
The U.S. Air Force announced in February the airlift wing would be losing two aircraft as part of Defense Department cuts, and then the next month, it announced more changes that could mean the loss of 130 jobs at the air reserve station. The 130 positions would represent about an 8 percent loss, or more than $8 million for the local economy.
That hit could still be on the horizon. Or, the Warren-Youngstown area could turn the Pentagon's adjustments into an economic spike by convincing Washington to send operations from other bases to Vienna.