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The 911th Air Wing 'save' might be only a temporary reprieve

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Sunday, March 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Sighs of relief over extension of the 911th Airlift Wing's lease on life through at least September 2014 must not be breathed long or deep. In what's just one skirmish in a fiscal war without an end in sight, the Air Force Reserve base in Moon has won only a brief reprieve — and in its struggle for long-term survival, complacency is a lethal adversary.

The defense spending bill that President Obama signed in January helped the 911th survive this skirmish by requiring the Air Force to keep more cargo planes than it wanted to. But it still could close the 911th more easily and quickly than it could many other bases.

That's because the way the Air Force calculates such things, it counts fewer than 300 of the base's 2,000 employees as civilian employees. And under federal law, the Pentagon can simply close any base with fewer than 300 civilian employees — without the lengthy, politically fraught process of obtaining congressional approval first.

Then there's another national base realignment process — like the one in 2005 that the 911th survived — coming in 2015. So by the time September 2014 rolls around, the 911th surely will be back on the chopping block. And at least one major factor in the Air Force targeting the 911th in the closure attempt just averted, the base's size, isn't likely to change in its favor in the interim.

So, however satisfying and rewarding this victory is for the 911th and its supporters, they can't afford to let that success go to their heads — or to let their guard down now or in coming months.

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