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Politics & Government

Rothfus Fights To Keep Helicopters In Johnstown

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) has enlisted the support of the entire Pennsylvania delegation and more than 200 other members of Congress in asking fellow members working on appropriations bills to force the U.S. Army to leave the Apache helicopters currently assigned to National Guard units right where they are. 

The Republican this week circulated for signatures a letter asking that funding to move the 200 helicopters be removed from the pending budget. Twenty-four of those aircraft are based in Johnstown.

A portion of the helicopters assigned to guard units across the country are to be moved to active duty units in October. The remainder were to be shifted in 2016, but legislation is already on the books halting those transfers.

Congress established the Commission on the Future of the Army to look into the plans included in the Aviation Restructure Initiative launched by the Army.

“We believe that Congress should be able to take a look at [the commission report] before the Army starts to pull these assets out of the guard,” Rothfus said.

That commission is to report its findings in February, several months after the first helicopters are slated to be transferred.

Rothfus is clearly focused on the negative economic impact that moving the aircraft out of Johnstown could have on the community, but he says there is a much bigger issue at hand.

“We have spent tremendous amounts of resources and years of training in getting our National Guard where it’s at, to be combat ready, to help out active duty and if we allow these transfers to go ahead that will impact the ability of the National Guard to perform the mission we expect it to perform,” Rothfus said.

The letter was specifically sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Those are the House members who will be negotiating with their counterparts in the U.S. Senate.