The Navy announced Wednesday it will not renew its contract with Hill Air Force Base for the inspection and repair of F/A-18 fighter jets.

The project employs 150 workers at Hill and had the potential of bringing in $61 million.Hill won the contract in August, 1993, in competitive bidding with private and military competitors. The Navy had an option to renew the contract on a yearly basis.

"We're disappointed - I'm personally disappointed," said Col. Kevin Sullivan, director of the Aircraft Directorate in Hill's Ogden Air Logistics Center. "We had received no indication from the Navy that they had problems with the planes."

Navy officials have indicated that Hill lost the contract because delivery of the repaired planes has been late and because of budget overruns. But Hill absorbed the extra costs, and officials say the delays made little difference to the Navy at the time.

Many at Hill believe the Navy is just making excuses to take work from Hill and put it back in the Navy's own aviation depot on San Diego's North Island so it can employ its own workers.

"I think their objections are somewhat frivolous," said Utah Rep. Jim Hansen, whose congressional district includes Hill. "I think they're getting into a cross the t's and dot the i's kind of thing . . . The Navy is very jealous of its turf."

No one at the Navy has said the aircraft work itself was anything but top notch, said Ogden ALC Commander Maj. Gen. Pat Condon, and Sullivan agreed.

"The feedback we received from individual unit customers was very good," he said.

Sullivan added that many of the delay problems were the fault of the Navy. Hill often had to stop work to wait for Navy overseers to come in and approve maintenance projects that Hill recommended, and workers spent a lot of time waiting for parts to come in from the Navy.

"We did not anticipate the magnitude of the administration of the oversight process," Sullivan said, "(and) there were occasions very clearly where we had delays because of parts problems."

Hansen has requested the Congressional General Accounting Office review the numbers the Navy used in its decision, many of which look suspicious to him. He cites, for example, an apparent discrepancy between what Hill said it was charging for each hour of labor, $61, and what the Navy said, $81.

"We're a little concerned that some of the figures the Navy came up with are a little bit fictitious," Hansen said.

Hill has completed work on eight fighters and has 28 to complete in the initial contract, which it will finish by April.

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The 150 workers on the project comprise only 2 percent of Hill's work force, which is within the normal fluctuations of Hill's contract work, Sullivan said. However, coming on the heels of the Air Force's recent announcement that Hill has to cut its work force by 832 next year, the non-renewal of the Navy contract is not good news.

Additionally, next year's round of military base closures is focusing on bases' interservice work capabilities, so, at least symbolically, the loss of the Navy work is a blow to Hill's chances. (Hill, however, still does work on Navy C-130 planes and other equipment.)

"Overall we're trying to build interservicing agreements, and we were trying to use this one as a good example," Hansen said. "This is the first foray into this, so to speak.

"We had told the Navy before this happened (the non-renewal of the contract) that we would request an accounting. We just want to be able in a similar situation to clear the air."

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