Utahns declared final victory Monday in a nasty three-year war with President Clinton over whether to close a California base as ordered and shift much of its work to Utah's Hill Air Force Base.
The Air Force announced that Hill and Boeing won a $1.1 billion, nine-year contract for work now done at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., beating back an effort to keep it at McClellan (as Clinton had promised to do in his 1996 campaign).At Hill, jubilant officers and employees whooped when they received the news through a telephone hookup with Washington.
"This is a win for Hill AFB, the states of Utah and Texas, and the American taxpayer," said Maj. Gen. Rich Roellig, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center. "We've put our best forward on this bid, and it's gratifying to see our base recognized as the world-class center for doing this work."
According to Hill spokeswoman Gloria Cales, the contract includes maintaining A-10 aircraft, work that had been carried out at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center. About 1 million work-hours annually will be shifted to the Ogden Air Logistics Center.
The other half of the work, maintaining KC-135 aircraft, will be carried out by Boeing at what used to be the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, Texas.
Roellig said Hill looks forward to taking steps to carry out the contract. However, the contract won't be awarded officially until the General Accounting Office makes a ruling on a protest that was filed on the matter. The GAO is expected to make its decision Friday.
Utah's members of Congress said about half the work will go to Hill - bringing between 750 and 1,000 extra jobs. They say that should also protect Hill in future base-closure rounds.
But the war with Clinton isn't quite over yet - despite years of wrangling in Congress, including Utah members this year uncovering a "smoking gun" document they said showed the White House had ordered unfair help to keep work at McClellan.
One last problem comes because PEMCO, a contractor that has performed some work at McClellan, filed the protest with the GAO, contending the Air Force improperly bundled unrelated work into one huge contract to make bidding difficult and unfair.
Utah's members of Congress had made similar complaints early in the bidding process when they thought such bundling was ordered specifically to prevent Hill from winning. Now they defend it and said the protest should be quickly dismissed.
Originally, they said bundling would prevent Hill from winning the contract because Hill was not equipped to maintain the KC-135 cargo planes included in the contract. Hill got around that by teaming with Boeing - which will do that work in Texas at another base scheduled to close.
Earlier this year, Utah's congressional members obtained a memo in which Pentagon officials said they had expected Boeing to team with McClellan instead. When it didn't, the White House asked the Pentagon to find someone else to team with McClellan to keep work there - as the president had promised in his campaign.
Utahns said that proved the White House was trying to tip the scales unfairly for McClellan, although the White House said it was simply trying to ensure healthy competition for the contract.
After Hill and Boeing won Monday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said PEMCO's protest over the bundling should be dismissed because the bundling will indeed create savings and efficiencies for the Air Force.
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said the GAO is expected to rule on the protest by Friday. "This award demonstrates that Hill Air Force Base can succeed in a legitimate competition," he added.
"It's too bad that millions of dollars and so much effort were required to reaffirm a decision" made by the base closure commission three years ago.
Hansen said, "These new maintenance jobs, added to the 2,100 jobs announced this spring (from other work from McClellan and the also-closing Kelly Air Force Base, Texas) will position Hill squarely in the center of the future Air Force."
Hatch added that Hill has been using only about 60 percent of its workload capacity, "and the McClellan workload will raise that substantially."'