The Air Force has given "war games" a new meaning, with emphasis on political posturing that continues to threaten Hill Air Force Base. Continued high-level shenanigans could hinder the transfer of maintenance work from two soon-to-be defunct depots to the Utah facility.

That is unfortunate not only for Hill and for the state but for all taxpayers, who deserve decisions on base closures that are fiscally responsibile and within the law. But Washington game-playing continues to be the norm.According to the General Accounting Office, potential delays stem from the way jobs are being packaged, hurting Hill's ability to bid on them. GAO also noted the Air Force has refused to show Congress documents supporting its latest decisions.

The transfer process should not be unduly difficult or confusing. A law was passed last year specifying how such repair and maintenance work should be bid among bases and contractors. Yet the White House continues to meddle in determining where some 2,000 to 5,000 jobs from Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, and McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., end up.

President Clinton's concern about eliminating federal jobs in the two top voter-rich states in the nation is obvious, hence his 1995 plan to "privatize in place" work at both bases. Yet guidelines of the Independent Base Closure Commission and Congress must be followed. The president's attempts to thwart and politicize the process are apalling.

Now the GAO finds the Air Force plans to bid jobs in large packages instead of smaller components, contending that is most logical and cost-effective. No supporting documentation was given to GAO to support that premise. To win the larger bids, HAFB would have to build large and expensive buildings.

GAO also charges the Air Force with not giving as much credit in bids to Hill and other bases for reducing costly overhead, the main reason for downsizing.

Upper-level flyboys mock the spirit and letter of base-closing provisions, and they do so with presidential endorsement. Congress needs to hold the line and ensure this round of political war games is one a renegade Air Force does not win.