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ADVOCATE EXPECTS THE FUR TO FLY

SHARE ADVOCATE EXPECTS THE FUR TO FLY

Mike Pavich's office is, to say the least, unprepossessing. It is in a loaned room with loaned furniture on an empty floor of the Thiokol Building. Dozens of empty cubicles with dusty chairs and desks surround it. A few magazines describing technology transfer lie on a table. A map of Ogden hangs on the wall.

"Basically Hill/DDO is myself and an administrative assistant," Pavich said.But Hill/DDO '95, the community/government group headquartered in these modest surroundings, is the nerve center in the effort to keep Hill Air Force Base and Defense Depot Ogden open.

Both facilities are possible candidates for closure or realignment (reduction in size) in the 1995 round of military base closings.

The decision on Hill's future will have broad consequences. According to the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, 24,000 northern Utah civilians depended directly or indirectly on Hill for their jobs in fiscal year 1993. Together with 4,700 military employees, that makes Hill the biggest basic employer in the state of Utah.

(A "basic" employer is one that brings dollars into Utah instead of just moving dollars around once they're here.)

Hill/DDO was formed a year ago by members of the Governor's Defense Conversion Board. At the time, Pavich was a retired Air Force major general, fresh from leaving his command of the air logistics center at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif.

Being involved in the military base closure process is not an ideal job. The process is not neat. It is not clean. It is messy. It is rife with politicians trying to pressure the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), lobbyists trying to garner influence, and community leaders defending their base and lambasting others.

"You need to realize that the process gets very political," Earl Tate, a member of the Governor's Defense Conversion Board, told Pavich at a meeting Tuesday. "When you have a (congressional) delegation of five for our state compared to a delegation of 50 or 60."

"We are in fact very mindful of that," Pavich answered. "We're going to try to give them to understand that Utah will not be an easy take."

Pavich's priority the first year has been to steer the whole sphere of debate away from politics and interservice rivalries and toward the real issues: What closures make good business sense? What bases are most and least efficient? What surviving bases can absorb operations lost in closed bases?

In the categories that really matter, Pavich says, Hill wins hands down.

"We spent the last year posturing ourselves for the fight," Pavich said. "We were focusing on the national argument."

But now the national argument ends and the decisionmaking begins. Air Force officials have completed their data-gathering and are now hunkered down in Washington deciding which bases get thumbs up and which get thumbs down. Their recommendations go to the Department of Defense, which in turn submits a master list of recommended Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine base closures to the BRAC Commission.

Only then will the process be made public, and it is then the fur will start to fly as communities and politicians defend their base.

"We've been in a little bit of a border skirmish," said Scott Parkinson, vice chairman of the Defense Conversion Board, "and now we're going to engage in full-scale war."

On the brink of that war, and after a year of gathering munitions, what does Pavich think of Hill's chances?

"It varies - this week it looks pretty good," he said. "I'm cautiously optimistic."