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FALLS AIR RESERVE GAINS MORE FUNDING IN SPENDING PLAN FACILITY SURVIVES DEFENSE CUTS; 35 DOMESTIC BASES WOULD CLOSE

The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base looks like a winner in a Defense Department budget that includes a lot of losers.

The fiscal 1991 spending plan, announced by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney Monday, calls for $4.5 million in funding for additional construction at the Niagara Falls base.

In contrast, Cheney also introduced a plan Monday that would result in the closing of 35 domestic military bases by the end of 1994 and major realignments at more than 20 others. Among the candidates for force reduction are MacDill Air Force Base in Florida and the Bangor Air Guard Station in Maine -- Reserve operations not unlike the one in the Falls.

Neil Nolf, public affairs officer at the Niagara Falls base, said the $4.5 million in capital spending would be for facilities for the Air National Guard unit stationed at the base.

The money would fund an addition that would house a flight simulator for the F-16 fighter, a new engine test cell and a new weapons storage area, Nolf said.

Nolf said the funding represents the federal government's continuing plans to modernize the facility. He said the National Guard unit at the base had been flying "Vietnam-era" F-4 fighters and needs the new facilities because it is replacing the 24 old planes with 18 modern F-16 fighters.

He said the new funding comes on top of $2.5 million the government recently spent for a new operations building for the Air Reserve unit at the base and $1.5 million spent on rebuilding the runway.

About 3,500 National Guard members and Air Force reservists train at the facility, which employs about 800 civilians.

"We cannot responsibly reduce the defense budget without looking at bases and production lines," Cheney said.

"I asked the service secretaries to review their basing requirements around the world at the same time they were reviewing force structure. These announcements are the result of those reviews and reflect the service proposals."

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