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Slaughter finds ray of hope in Panetta's planned visit to Falls air base

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter held a press conference today at Strong Memorial Hospital. Photo by Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News

ROCHESTER -- Rep. Louise M. Slaughter acknowledged Tuesday she is fearful that all of the effort she and other members of Congress previously devoted to saving the Niagara Falls Air Base may be jeopardized by ominous signs that the Defense Department wants to close the sprawling facility.

But just prior to starting a press conference at Strong Memorial Hospital to discuss the broken leg she suffered in Manhattan on April 2, Slaughter said she is encouraged by statements by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicating he plans to visit the facility before a final decision is made.

"I've known him...since I first got to Congress, she said. "If he made the commitment to come, he will come, and I think it will help."

She added the fact that Panetta has promised to make such a visit "means we have some hope."

The Air Force has rejected a plan that would have provided a new mission and saved most of the proposed job cuts for a National Guard unit at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

The proposal, from the Council of Governors, was an alternative to the Defense Department's budget plan that would eliminate 845 jobs at the base by stripping the mission of the 107th Airlift Wing, which is stationed there.

--Robert J. McCarthy

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