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Utah delegation hopes to delay realignment at Hill Air Force Base

Published: Monday, Nov. 7 2011 6:43 p.m. MST

Hill Air Force Base worker and aircraft electrician Jeremy John works on an F-16, March 17, 2005.

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Delaying a realignment that affects Hill Air Force Base is the focus of a strategy by members of Utah's congressional delegation.

The realignment would consolidate the management of the aircraft maintenance work at Hill and similar air logistics bases in Oklahoma and Georgia, separating managers from work done at the individual bases. The move is a response to a White House directive to cut $500 billion from the defense budget and would initially eliminate 261 civilian jobs at Hill.

"This is not a new idea. It's been discounted in the past," Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said on Monday. He is skeptical the realignment plan would result in efficiencies down the road and is concerned that future changes at Hill, namely the transition from F-16s to F-35s, could be adversely affected by the realignment.

"The fear is you cut down the number (of jets) that will be produced. That's devastating to Hill. It's also devastating to the nation. We cannot continue to survive with just F-16s and F-15s. The technology is too old, and the planes themselves are at 150 percent of their flying design capacity. It's wrong."

Bishop said branches of the military are supposed to prepare an analysis of the impacts of changes costing more than $500 million. "(The Air Force) decided to waive that. They were not supposed to," he said.

"The biggest issue is, if this is the right thing for the Air Force, we want to support it. They have not done their Business Case Analysis to show us that this is the right thing," Bishop said. "Until they do that, I'm very skeptical of it, and so is the delegation from all three states."

So Utah's congressmen plan to work with congressional representatives in Oklahoma and Georgia to see if they can make the Air Force go through the analysis process. Bishop said the chances of that happening are greater if the deadline for the realignment can be pushed from next October to October 2013.

Being left out of the process had Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the entire congressional delegation recoiling when the Air Force made its plan public last Wednesday.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said Monday that Utah's congressional delegation is united in its position the Air Force did not follow proper procedure this time.

"We think if we let in all of the light of day and make this decision based on what's most efficient for our military, Hill will come out a lot better," Matheson said. "I don't think this means Utah is in trouble. I think Utah, Hill Air Force Base, has a good reputation. But I am concerned about the recent announcement because it does have some job loss and the potential for more in the future."

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com, Twitter: SteveFidel

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