Herbert, congressional delegation recoil at Air Force plans for cuts at Hill AFB
Mike Terry, Deseret News
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force announcement that it will restructure its civilian workforce drew a swift and harsh reaction from Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's congressional delegation, saying they were shut out of the process.
One of the key restructures the Air Force announced is a "streamlining" of its Materiel Command, which includes the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base's largest component as part of a $400 billion cost savings over the next five years. The Air Force said it will eliminate 2,139 positions in 12 locations, not specifying how many jobs would be lost at Hill.
The Air Force also has Air Logistics Centers at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Tinker will become the command headquarters for a newly named Sustainment Center under the realignment. The restructure will be implemented by Oct. 1, 2012.
The governor and delegation issued a joint statement expressing "deep concerns with the Air Force's decision to eliminate jobs" at Hill.
According to the delegation, Ogden’s commander would be a one-star general instead of a two-star general, and the Ogden Air Logistics Center would be downgraded to an Air Logistics Complex.
The governor and the delegation are concerned that the Air Force’s plan could disrupt the integrated management of Ogden’s life-cycle managers, who plan and engineer modifications to aircraft, and depot maintainers, who are responsible for performing the actual work on the aircraft.
The delegation said the Air Force reports that Ogden would not lose any of its current functions and missions, and the F-22 program managers previously scheduled to move to Ogden would still be stationed at Hill. In addition, the Secretary of the Air Force has said that Hill is on track to receive the first three operational squadrons of F-35s.
The Utah delegation and governor also sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, saying they cannot support the Air Force proposal to shuffle its Materiel Command "due to the lack of analysis, which prohibits us from judging the efficacy of the proposed changes and the impacts on sustainment. Sadly, the Air Force either can't, or won't, provide us with the needed answers as the analytical process seems to have been circumvented."
Hill has been a target of formal Base Reduction and Closure hearings in the past, and the tone of a letter from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to Donley last week makes it clear Bishop, like Utah's other elected officials, is concerned about the way the Air Force is making its restructuring plans.
"For months, our delegation's attempts at dialogue and partnership have largely been rebuffed by you, and other Air Force leaders, even as (Air Force Materiel Command's) reorganization plans were being drafted in haste and behind the cloak of nondisclosure agreements," Wednesday's letter to Donley reads.
The letter also references the recent $20 million in state funds in the Falcon Hill project now under construction on base. "That investment now stands at risk through what appears to be an impetuous Air Force reorganization scheme."
Hill is Utah's largest employer, with a combined military and civilian workforce of 23,500. The base's F-16s are perhaps its most visible trademark, but it's the base's largest tenant, the Ogden Air Logistics Center, that is the anchor for the base's significant economic impact in the state.
According to information provided by the base, the Ogden Air Logistics Center center has worldwide engineering, sustainment and logistics management and maintenance support responsibilities for some of the Air Force's most sophisticated weapon systems, including the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles. The center is the Air Force Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for low-observable, "stealth," aircraft structural composite materials and provides support for the B-2 Spirit multirole bomber.
Hundreds of F-16 aircraft annually receive depot maintenance, modification and repair on the base. The depot also refurbishes the A-10 Thunderbolt II and overhauls all types of aircraft landing gear, wheels, brakes and tires.
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