Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Gary Arthur works with armor added to a five-ton truck at Tooele Army Deport. The base's future isn't assured.
Fourth in a four-part series.

Utah's military presence doesn't begin and end with Hill Air Force Base.

Tooele Army Depot and Dugway Proving Ground are also at risk in the federal government's upcoming round of base closures.

These bases might be small in comparison to Hill — Hill employs more than 10 times the work force of both TAD and Dugway combined. But they, too, are important to the U.S. military, says Jim Hansen, the former Utah congressman who now serves on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

"It always amazes me that people come in and drool all over Hill but don't realize that Dugway is extremely important for the state of Utah," Hansen said.

In a way, TAD and Dugway will have to fend for themselves. The Utah Defense Alliance, an organization that seeks to protect all of Utah's bases, is devoting nearly all its efforts to save the state's largest military installation.

"We're working with Tooele and Dugway somewhat," said Rick Mayfield, executive director of the Utah Defense Alliance. "They are such small facilities in comparison to Hill that the majority of our time is spent at Hill."

The other shoe?

Tooele Army Depot can't escape Hill's shadow.

So far, Hill has managed to escape BRAC's grip. TAD hasn't been so lucky.

"We're the red-headed stepchild of Hill," said Malcolm Walden, BRAC transition coordinator at the Tooele Army Depot.

"But we're a viable stepchild," depot spokeswoman Kathy Anderson said.

BRAC cut thousands of jobs from TAD during the 1993 base closure round, while Hill remained unscathed. The Department of Defense moved the depot's troop support, maintenance, storage and distribution missions to other bases around the country.

TAD officials fear another major realignment is on the horizon.

"They could privatize us, they could make us a contract facility, they could realign us — any number of things could happen," Walden said. "After our experience last time, we take nothing for granted."

When asked about TAD's chances in BRAC, Mayfield said, "That's a real question in my mind. I would doubt they would expand."

Expand, no; survive, maybe. TAD is the last major ammunition depot in the West, with easy access to roads, rail and local airports, Walden said.

And unlike Nevada's Hawthorne Army Depot, TAD stores "active, go-to-war" munitions, Walden said.

"That's one of the reasons why we are a valuable national asset," Walden said. "For what we do, we're it in the West. Now there are others in the East, but this side of the Mississippi River, this side of the Rocky Mountains, it's us. So that gives us some geographical insulation, and it gives us some BRAC insulation."

The depot also boasts another military concept being pushed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: a transformed military that works and trains together.

This cooperation between branches of military is already happening at TAD, Walden said. The depot stores munitions from the Army, Air Force and Marines.

"I consider it to be one of our major strengths," Walden said.

Nearly 13,500 acres of the depot are devoted to munitions storage. The western hills of the base are dotted with 920 munitions igloos.

If BRAC did shut down the base, cleanup of those hills might not be easy, Walden said.

No matter how many advantages TAD officials think they might have in the BRAC process, their fate isn't certain.

"We're not assuming that we are going to be safe," Walden said. "We recognize that everyone is vulnerable. We've done what we can to position ourselves as best we could.

"We're experienced at this. We know how to do it. Hopefully we don't have to use that experience this time."

Low profile

Dugway is one of the nation's best-kept secrets.

UFO-watchers have dubbed Dugway the "new Area 51." Little is said about what missions are performed at the 80,000-acre Army base in the middle of Utah's desert.

Dugway sits about 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. That secluded, distant location and the secretive nature of its missions are both reasons Dugway often is ignored when BRAC is discussed in Utah, Mayfield said.

"If they close Dugway, boy oh boy, it would be tough for the Army," Hansen said. "People don't talk about them a lot, but they have some fantastic missions that are extremely important."

Dugway is one of the country's main facilities for developing defenses against biological and chemical attacks.

Workers at Dugway test defense gear to make sure they can survive nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, said John Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, a nonpartisan defense and research organization.

Massive test facilities at the base are so large that they can accommodate cars, aircraft and tanks to test defenses against toxic agents.

Dugway has the potential to add many more important missions, Mayfield said. That possibility increases the installation's chances against closure, he said.

"There is a tremendous opportunity for the Army and the Air Force to combine," Mayfield said. "One of the objectives that we keep hearing about with BRAC is interservicing, so we could have the Army and the Air Force working together in joint efforts."

The Army and Air Force could work together at Dugway to test weapons and train personnel, Mayfield said. Dugway is just south of Hill's massive Utah Test and Training Range, where F-16 fighters from Hill train in air-to-air combat and the Air Force tests cruise missiles.

Dugway could also become an extremely important installation for homeland security, said Vickie McCall, president of the Utah Defense Alliance. Teaming up with the Air Force would only make the United States stronger, she said.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com