St. Louis Public Radio News
4:25 pm
Mon July 28, 2003

Durbin Hopeful C-9 Will Not Go Away in September

St. Louis, MO – Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says the C-9 will not necessarily completely leave Scott Air Force Base this year, despite the Air Force's announcement last week that it would.

The Air Force confirmed plans to retire Scott's ten C-9's which are used to move injured soldiers around the country.

But Durbin says Illinois' Congressional delegation is working to keep some C-9's flying, while the military finds a replacement for Scott.

"This is such a critical decision," Durbin says. "It seems like one small thing. But we're not that far from another BRAC, base closure commission, and we want to make sure Scott has a strong mission to defend so there's no question about its future."

The aging C-9's are getting too costly to retrofit to comply with noise standards but its mission at Scott employs hundreds of people.

Durbin says Scott won't know the fate of the C-9 until the President signs the nation's defense budget. Congress hasn't finalized the bill yet, and probably won't before the August recess.

Durbin says the current defense budget, though, includes language to order a study of the issue, which keeps the C-9 in the spotlight.

"What kind of missions are going to be compromised or changed, and if there's a decision to be made a few months from now interms of replacements, let's make it now. Let's make this part of a continuum, one decision, that might involve the future of Scott as well as this mission."

Durbin also hopes the Air Force will move a mission of C-40's to Scott, which he says would also help keep Scott open the next time Congress moves to close military air bases.