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January 26, 2014

Helicopter to be added to Plattsburgh Air Branch

PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congressman Bill Owens says he helped win a concession from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that will bring an additional helicopter and pilot at the Plattsburgh Air Branch.

Owens has been fighting CBP’s plan to reduce staffing along the northern border.

According to a news release from Owens’s office, CBP Assistant Commissioner and Major General Randolph D. Alles informed the congressman that the agency would add an American Eurocopter AS-350 A-Star and pilot to the Air Branch.

However, even with the addition, the total staffing level at the Air Branch is expected to decline in future years, the release said.

This news comes despite the inclusion of funds for an additional 2,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers that were included in the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014, which Owens supported. 

“I am encouraged by the news that CBP will keep this aircraft and pilot at the Air Branch,” he said in the release.

“I will use every tool at my disposal as a member of Congress to ensure future government cuts don’t jeopardize national security or impede people and goods crossing the northern border to spend money in our economy and create jobs.”

FOUGHT DRAW-DOWN

Owens, who announced earlier this month that he will not seek re-election, has been lobbying to keep the northern border’s security posture strong by maintaining current staffing levels.

In September, he wrote a letter to the Customs and Boarder Protection commissioner expressing his concerns about the proposed staff reductions. During a call with Major General Alles the next day, Owens was informed the agency would seek volunteers from among employees to move to a station along the southern border but would issue a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to Air Branch employees and their families if no volunteers could be found in the next two years.

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