Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, says that three years ago he was sure the Army would soon close Tooele Army Depot. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said such worries about Tooele have been around during all his 17 years in the Senate.
But they said Tooele was saved from a round of proposed base closures Friday by a combination of their lobbying for an expensive state-of-the-art vehicle maintenance facility there and Tooele's reputation for hard work.And as a bonus, closure of other bases nationally will bring Tooele more work on tactical vehicle and artillery maintenance.
"It's a great day of relief," Hansen said Friday after the
base closure list was released without any Utah bases. Garn added, "The current report couldn't be any better for Utah, and it reflects the work ethic out here."
But that came after years of worry about Tooele, because the Army had long discussed closing one of its 10 supply and maintenance depots to save money.
Hansen said a main factor saving Tooele is the current construction there of a state-of-the-art consolidated maintenance facility that is the size of nine football fields.
Hansen said, "I and Jake Garn pushed hard for it, and got it raised from way down at No. 110 on a list of construction priorities to the top."
They had the right committee assignments to help. Garn is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, and Hansen is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
But construction was later halted for a new review of the facility's need. Hansen noted at the time that other members of Congress with depots of their own to protect knew that facility would likely help preserve Tooele and pressured to stop it.
"At first, I thought the Army would cut the size of it," Hansen said. But he and Garn lobbied Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney - a former congressman from neighboring Wyoming - about the need for it and why it made sense to have it at Tooele.
Good wook ethic in Utah
Garn added, "Lists about what it costs per hour to repair a vehicle or airplane always make us look good in Utah because of our good work ethic."
Hansen said, "Also, I told Dick that he wouldn't find anywhere that supports the Army more than Tooele. . . . If you bad-mouth the base there, you might have a fight on your hands. I told him that's worth something."
Cheney later told Hansen - to his mild surprise - that such community support was indeed important and construction of the full-size plant would proceed to replace old World War II facilities at Tooele and other Army depots.
The Army on Friday proposed, as expected, to close one of its 10 depots - but it was the Sacramento Army Depot because it ranked 7th out of 10 among depots in value - but the three that were lower have "critical ammunition missions that would preclude closure," the Pentagon said.
Ogden Defense Depot
Hansen said that just as the Army discussed closing one of its depots, the Defense Logistics Agency has also discussed closing one of its depots - which could threaten the Ogden Defense Depot.
But he said such discussions have waned, and even if a depot were to close, he said Ogden likely would not be it because of its ideal location as "a crossroads of the West" and high ratings for its employees' efficiency and workload.
Hill Air Force Base
Similarly, the Air Force has also talked of consolidating its air logistics centers - which could threaten the large Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base. But again because of high worker ratings there, "the last ALC that would close would be at Hill," Hansen said.
Hansen said the future of Dugway Proving Ground is also likely secure because it has a unique mission of testing arms and defenses. He added that the Rhode Island-size base is so contaminated with unexploded munitions that it could never safely be turned back to the public.
31 major bases face the ax
Defense Secretary Richard Cheney on Friday announced plans to close 31 major U.S. military bases, including such well-known posts as Fort Ord in California and Fort Dix in New Jersey.
Cheney also suggested closing 12 minor installations and reducing or transferring forces at 28 other sites.
"By 1995, the number of people in the U.S. military will be about one-fourth smaller than it is today. Smaller forces need fewer bases. It's as simple as that," Cheney said.