WASHINGTON – Construction of a much-touted flight simulator at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is about to be delayed because of congressional inaction on “sequestration,” the draconian automatic federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday.
The Air Force announced the delay in the simulator project in documents that detail its response to the looming budget cuts. The documents prompted Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to take to the House floor Tuesday to decry the delay, noting that the simulator project “is crucial to securing the base’s continued operation.”
The Niagara Falls base – which has fought off federal efforts to shut it down twice in the last two decades – is counting on the simulator to make the base a training destination for Air Force Reserve pilots throughout the Northeast who fly C-130 cargo planes. That’s the plane flown by the Niagara Falls-based 914th Airlift Wing.
The delay at the Niagara Falls base would be one of dozens of Air Force construction disruptions across the country, according to the Air Force documents, which spelled out $1.8 billion in building cutbacks.
The Air Force was set to begin the first phase of the $28.1 million Niagara Falls project this year with the construction of a $6.1 million building to house the simulator.
But now, if sequestration goes through, construction will be delayed, Higgins said.
“Not only is that building being delayed; this also necessarily delays the subsequent funding coming to the area to complete the facility,” Higgins said.
And the delay could be just part of the problem the base will face under sequestration, Higgins said.
The Air Force has said that 2,300 Air Force civilians in New York will be furloughed because of the sequester, although it has not said where those job reductions will take place. The move will cause $17.7 million in wages to be lost across the state.
Higgins also met Tuesday with Robert T. Brady, chairman of Moog Inc. of Elma, which employs 2,000 locally in its defense unit.
Brady expressed his concern about the sequester, Higgins said, noting that cuts to the Pentagon budget will inevitably have an impact on defense contractors.