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Lawmakers Expected to Approve Drones at NF Air Base

4:31 PM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Lawmakers To Vote Today on Drones at NF Air Base

A C-130 sits inside a hangar at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

NIAGARA FALLS, NY - Lawmakers in Washington are expected to approve a plan this week that would bring drones to the Niagara Falls Air Base.

Deep cuts were proposed earlier this year for the Air National Guard's 107th airlift wing, and a new drone mission could mean new life for the air reserve station.

Lawmakers say the House and Senate will be vote sometime before by the weekend on the Defense Authorization Bill, which has already been approved by a House-Senate conference committee. 

The agreement is big for the federal government and even bigger for the local economy. The Department of Defense wants a more lean and dynamic military with the use of drones. The base looks like it'll be part of that vision. If Congress supports the deal, the base would stay open and more jobs could come to the region.

"To now have something here that is a future mission and enduring mission that would hopefully sustain for several years to come, it's exciting to have that," said John Cooper, the vice chair of NIMAC, which has hired lobbyists to vouch for the drones.

For years, the 107th wing has deployed and repaired C-130s. But, because of cost-cutting measures by the government, the squad was on the chopping block. While the 914th wing would be unaffected, the proposal still put the whole base in jeopardy. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says the new mission increases the chances that the C-130s will stay and boost jobs. 

 

"It doesn't guarantee that they'll stay [the C-130s] but it makes it much, much more likely, now we can make the arguments on why Niagara is better than other places, under the old program there would've been cuts everywhere," said Schumer.

Right now, 800 people are employed at the 107th. The drone program would bring 500 jobs. Schumer takes the drone program further, by revealing that the military would not just deploy the drones overseas.

"The Air Force and Border Patrol want to expand the use of drones to patrol our borders to prevent terrorists from coming over the border or prevent smugglers from smuggling drugs over the border," he said.

NIMAC and lawmakers says it's unclear when the drones will actually show in Niagara Falls. They're already being flown out of Syracuse. While some oppose the use of drones, fearing they kill innocent people, the government thinks drones will advance America's fight against terrorism.

Schumer adds that people would not see drones in the air, because they fly too high.

The House Rules Committee addressed the Authorization Bill Wednesday evening. The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the end of the week.

Both offices for Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Congressman-elect Chris Collins say they're eager to have the bill passed.

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