It may be only September, but it's Christmas as far as Hill Air Force Base is concerned.

After Hill's three-year battle with President Clinton over the closure of McClellan Air Force Base in California, the Air Force announced this week that Hill and Boeing won a $1.1 billion contract for work now done at McClellan. (The contract won't be awarded officially until the General Accounting Office makes a ruling - expected Friday - on a protest).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 at Hill. The new work will mean 750 to 1,000 extra jobs.

The really good news is that the additional operations should protect Hill in future base-closure rounds. Defense Secretary William Cohen has said he will seek congressional approval for base closures in 2001 and 2005.

Because of petty politics the additional workload for Hill was in question until Monday's disclosure. McClellan and Kelly Air Force Base in Texas were ordered closed by Congress in 1995. But because those are in voter-rich states, the Clinton administration balked at complying with that mandate. According to Utah Rep. Jim Hansen, tactics to delay the closure of those bases cost taxpayers about $500 million a year.

The Clinton administration then tried to privatize or put to bid the work done at the California and Texas bases so that the work would stay in those politically important states.

A "smoking gun" memo surfaced in May outlining the administration's plans to get Lockheed Martin to bid against the team of Hill and Boeing. The memo instructed the deputy secretary of defense to persuade Lockheed to bid to perform the work in Sacramento. In other words, Lockheed Martin was basically told to keep the jobs in California.

All the above shenanigans are now history. Justice and Hill Air Force Base have prevailed.