The chairman of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission says Hill Air Force Base - and its four sister bases - are not totally safe yet.

Chairman Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois, says members of his commission still have questions about data that the Air Force says show all five of its air logistics centers should remain open but scaled back."We have heard that some of the cross-servicing groups recommended against it," Dixon told the Deseret News after a hearing Tuesday. Such Pentagon groups were designed to see if all branches of the military could save money by sharing depots.

"The Air Force itself has also recommended closing at least one of them in the past," Dixon said. "All of that leads to some degree of need to re-evaluate at the commission level. But I have no way knowing how we will finally end up."

Such skepticism comes after hearings where Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall said closing any of the five logistics centers would cost $800 million - so much that it couldn't afford to close any other base at the same time.

Also, Defense Secretary William Perry also said scaling back activities but keeping all logistics center open will save $2.9 billion over 20 years - while closing one or two of them would save only $699 million in that time.

Pentagon officials said keeping all the centers open would avoid huge upfront costs of closing them, such as the costs of replacing unique facilities of each at a sister depot.

However, some - such as Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah - have openly questioned whether Pentagon officials made such proposals only to help President Clinton win re-election in California, home of the lowest-ranked center at McClellan Air Force Base.

Aides to Hansen have said that closing McClellan may make the most economic sense and better protect other bases in the future.

Dixon said the commission will hold a hearing in a few weeks with groups that looked at cross-service sharing of depots and will question them closely about how they view the Air Force proposals.

"If we would ever get to the point where we would seriously question the closure of an Air Force base (among the five logistics centers), we would have to add one, two or all five to the (closure) list (for study). But we aren't at that point yet," Dixon said.

He added, "I would think that we are some distance from finding ourselves at that point."

Dixon said the commission does not want to add a large number of bases to the list for study - which the commission did in 1993.

So, if it adds any logistics centers to the list, he said it would likely be only "one, or I think two - we would probably not add all five. We many not add any." Hill was among two of the five air logistics centers with the highest rankings, which could help keep it off the list under such reasoning.

However, the commission two years ago - before Dixon joined it - had said it made a mistake then by not adding all five centers temporarily to closure lists for study (Hill was the only one excluded).