The county says Wednesday it will use a state grant to hire the Principi Group, headed by former Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi, who chaired the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
The hiring comes as the Pentagon plans to seek congressional approval for another round of domestic military base closings. Closure decisions would be made in 2015 and start a year later.
President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal includes $2.4 billion to plan for military base closures and consolidations.
In the budget document released on Wednesday, the Defense Department said money allocated for a new round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission “across the five years of this Future Years Defense plan” would save taxpayers “substantial sums.”
A separate document released by Defense said that the department had isolated $34 billion in savings but that it needed another BRAC to “permit infrastructure consolidation.”
“The actual closing of any bases would involve a multiyear process that would not start until 2016, after the economy is projected to have more fully recovered,” the document said.
Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said during a press briefing Wednesday that the proposed BRAC round would be “patterned” on the 1993 and 1995 rounds undertaken immediately following the end of the Cold War. The last round occurred in 2005.
“This is a very serious effort on our part to protect our base and our local workers,” Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, said in a prepared statement. Lance's district includes a significant portion of the base.
“When we lose missions at our base, when we lose aircraft, we also lose jobs—jobs that result in an estimated $200 million local economic impact. By bringing in top consultants, we are hoping to protect as many of those jobs as possible.”
The largest employer in Niagara County, the base is home to the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve and the 107th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard. It was threatened with shutdown in 2005 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, but ultimately was spared.
The government has made several investments in the base since then, including construction of a processing center for new recruits and a new firing range, but its long-term future is uncertain.
In 2012, it faced the loss of approx. 500 workers when a new defense department set of cuts outside of BRAC, suggested ending the 107th Airlift group's mission.
The Arlington, Va.-based Principi Group will draft a study of future missions for the base, something then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged to undertake when he visited the base in August 2012.
Last year, Panetta said investment in the base will continue and that he plans to look for additional roles for the base as the defense mission evolves.
"We're going to upgrade eight C-130s and replace them over five years with the C-130H3s," he said. "We're going to invest $6.1 million in order to create a C-130 flight simulator here."
The cost of the retention efforts is being covered by a state-provided grant,
“The Niagara Falls Air Base is Niagara County’s largest employer and its success is vital to our community,” said Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane. "... I look forward to working with The Principi Group and assisting them in any way that I can to make sure the Niagara Falls Air Base is running for many years to come.”
President Barack Obama, accompanied by acting Budget Director Jeffrey Zients, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday April 10, 2013, to discuss his proposes fiscal 2014 federal budget. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama's first budget of his new term is a political straddle, aimed at enticing Republicans into a new round of deficit negotiations while trying to keep faith with Democrats who favor higher taxes in service of more government spending.
That gives everyone something to dislike if they are so inclined - and many in divided government are.
Obama's stated goal is otherwise, namely that his $3.8 trillion budget should lead to the completion of a slow-motion grand deficit-cutting bargain by offering to save billions from programs previously sheltered from cuts. Medicare, Social Security and even military retirement are among them.
Perhaps to reassure Democrats unsettled by this approach, the president said his offer to trim future benefit increases for tens of millions of people is "less than optimal" and acceptable only if Republicans simultaneously agree to raise taxes on the wealthy and some businesses.
"If anyone thinks I'll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again," he said in an appearance Wednesday in the White House's Rose Garden.
In rhetoric reminiscent of last year's campaign, he added, "When it comes to deficit reduction, I've already met Republicans more than halfway."
That's not how they see it, and the issue was doubtless on the menu at the dinner for a dozen Republican senators that the president invited to the White House several hours later.
The early public reaction from Republicans was generally predictable, and none too positive.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the president deserves "some credit for some of the incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget.
"But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes," Congress' top Republican added, a repudiation of Obama's insistence on higher taxes.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wasn't nearly as generous. "We need a balanced budget that encourages growth and job creation. We don't need an extreme, unbalanced budget that won't balance in your lifetime or mine," he said. He stopped short, barely, of accusing Obama of trying to blow up chances for compromise rather than improve them.
Overall, Obama's budget accentuated the vast differences between Democrats and Republicans in their approaches to igniting a slow-growth economy - the issue that the president said was "the driving force behind every decision that I make."
He proposed slowing the growth of federal deficits without eliminating them, and is seeking $1 trillion in higher taxes over a decade. His plan wipes out roughly $1 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts contained in legislation he signed more than a year ago and calls for new spending to expand pre-K programs and increase highway and mass transit construction and repair. The net impact on the deficit is savings of roughly $600 billion over a decade, far less than the $1.8 trillion the White House claimed.
By contrast, the budget that Republicans pushed through the House last month leaves across-the-board cuts in place, reduces spending by an additional $5.6 trillion over a decade and shows a balanced budget without raising taxes.
Both sides also express support for an overhaul of the tax code, although neither has yet fully staked out a position.
That makes benefit programs the likeliest - possibly the only - fruitful area for another deficit-reduction compromise in the coming months.
Over a decade, the president's proposal to change the way the government calculates inflation - and therefore makes annual adjustments in benefits and income tax brackets - would produce savings estimated at $230 billion.
That's a relatively small amount of savings in a decade, when overall spending will be counted in the tens of trillions of dollars.
Ironically, in political terms, it may be enough to do what Republicans have so far failed to accomplish - produce serious cracks in the unity that Democrats have generally maintained in earlier deficit-cutting negotiations.
Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat running for the Senate, issued a statement saying he opposes the budget "because it would cut benefits to seniors on Social Security and makes other significant cuts to other key low-income programs that are vital to Massachusetts residents like low-income heating assistance."
Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that while she agrees with Obama on the need for a balanced approach, "there are specifics in the president's plan around earned benefits about which I have serious concerns."
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, a group with strong ties to Democrats, was more blunt. "We object to the president's proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare. Social Security has never been contributing factor to the deficit and we cannot leave seniors out in the cold," she said.