Senators back Griffiss tower

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the federal government to avoid closing the air traffic control tower at the Griffiss International Airport, which they said is critical to the local communities, businesses and economic growth, and national security.

The pair sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to urge that he reverse course on plans to close the towers at Griffiss and Ithaca-Tompkins Regional on June 15.

The Senators also wrote a letter to the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, to urge that the panel restore full-funding for the tower program in its 2014 Appropriations bill, to ensure the long-term existence of these two towers.

The Senators noted that Griffiss is a critical hub to the nation’s security, with the Air Force, the Army, and others using Griffiss as a staging area for emergency response and disaster relief throughout New York and all of New England.

"Griffiss International provides critical resources for our emergency response and preparedness in New York and all of New England: we simply should not allow these closures to happen," said Senator Schumer. "While I can value the need to cut waste ­ it should not be on the backs of Upstate New York residents, national security, businesses, and the local economies. I am urging FAA Administrator Huerta to reverse course on this closure set for June 15th, and we are urging our colleagues in the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore full funding for this contract tower program next year, to avoid this disruptive and dangerous exercise in the future."

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"This is the wrong way to produce savings in our budget, and instead will just come as a major setback to our safety, and our economy," Senator Gillibrand said. "Our military installation and local economy in the Mohawk Valley depend on an airport with a functioning control tower. We need to keep this airport fully up and running, and find smarter ways to cut spending."

"I want to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for their efforts to save the funding for this critical tower," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. "Without this tower the military loses a valuable training site that cannot be replaced as well as an invaluable staging area for disaster relief. In addition, the FAA and, by default, Oneida County will have lost $72 million we can never get back. Griffiss International Airport is key to economic development and national security not only to Oneida County but to all of upstate NY, to close this tower is short sighted and a flat out mistake. "

Due to the sequester, the FAA must automatically cut $637 million from their operations this year. To adhere to these cuts, they are cutting approximately $50 million from the Federal Contract Tower Program. The Administration plans to withdraw funding for contractors that staff control towers at some 149 small airports. An FAA Contract Tower is a privately-run control tower that receives a federal subsidy from the FAA.

The Senators highlighted that both the Griffiss International Airport and Ithaca-Tompkins Airport are essential to their local communities. The Griffiss tower is critical for our nation’s security and economy. The Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, U.S. Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve have utilized Griffiss as a staging base for disaster relief operations, including 9/11, and continue using it in their emergency response planning for the entire New England, New York City and Long Island region. This airport directly improves the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Military, supporting their primary mission to ensure the safety and security of our nation.

Commercial aviation provides more than 10 million jobs in the United States and helps drive over $1 trillion in economic activity in the country each year. Organizations, trade groups and union groups, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, have pointed to the negative impacts that furloughs have on employees and consumers.