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SUPPORTERS GREET BRAC WITH GREEN

In the story of the young man returning home from prison, yellow ribbons festooned a tree near his house to welcome him back.

For supporters of Defense Depot Ogden, the color was green - green ribbons, green signs, green shirts - all put on prominent display to persuade two members of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) visiting the depot Thursday to keep the installation open."Green is the color used by the military to exhibit top quality rating," said depot employee Richard Driggs, who had his own green ribbon pinned on his lapel.

Secretary of Defense William Perry recommended in February that the Ogden depot, which employs 1,113 people, be closed in the present round of military base closings.

In keeping with the commission's practice of at least one commission member visiting each base slated for closure, commissioners Lee Kling and Wendi Steele visited the Ogden depot to view the installation and receive briefings from depot staff and community supporters.

Kling and Steele were also scheduled to visit Dugway Proving Ground on Thursday.

"This is very much the beginning of the process," Steele said. "We will use the information we gather here to inform the other commissioners of what we have seen here firsthand."

"This helps us," Kling said. "By being on the base, we can get a little feel of what is done here."

A few depot supporters stood along the route the commissioners took from the Ogden Park Hotel to the depot, waving placards and cheering. The show of support, while enthusiastic, was a far cry from the raucous crowds cheering BRAC staffers last November, when Hill Air Force Base's status was in doubt. But Steele said the reception helped Ogden's case nonetheless.

"It's not the biggest crowd we've seen, but it's far from the smallest," she said. "Even though (community support) is not one of the criteria like military value, if that support wasn't there it would be a glaring omission."

Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, Rep. Jim Hansen and Gov. Mike Leavitt were all on hand to escort the commissioners around the depot and whisper Ogden's virtues into their ears."You can see from the reception and introduction to the community that this is very important to us," Leavitt told the commissioners. He pointed out that with defense cutbacks Utah has gone from 23rd in the nation to 48th in reception of defense funds.

"We think we have done our share," he said.

Mike Pavich, president of Hill/DDO '95, a community group working to save the Ogden depot, presented reasons why DDO should remain open. Pavich said the Defense Logistics Agency, parent organization of DDO, deviated from the criteria used to evaluate whether to close a base or not, most importantly the factor of military value.

"Operational efficiencies (were) given the least consideration when in fact they are the most important," he said. "That is the real military value."

Pavich emphasized a recent DLA-commissioned study done by the Peat Marwick accounting firm that showed Ogden as being the most cost-effective depot.

"Why would DLA disregard their own commissioned analysis?" Pavich asked. Then, answering his own question, "to defend a pre-conceived concept of operations."

The DLA was so fixated on combining the Sharpe and Tracy depots in Stockton, Calif., Pavich said, that it ignored the fact that Ogden combined with either of the California depots would be much more effective, given ease of goods transported from Ogden to West Coast locations, access to more seaports than the oft-overloaded Oakland port, and Ogden's efficiency.

"There is a better way to do it than DLA has done it," Pavich said. "Ogden is the constant in any western combination."

Pavich is perhaps the first person to compare the DLA to the NBA - he likened the Ogden depot to a certain basketball star.

"Any team that Michael Jordan plays on is the best team," he said.

Pavich will reiterate his arguments to the entire commission in a regional hearing in Albuquerque April 20.

The general feeling among depot supporters was that, though the visit may not do a lot to keep Ogden off the chopping block, it certainly can't hurt.

"I think everything does some good," said Clearfield Mayor Neldon Hamblin, a Hill/DDO director. "Sometimes just to see, smell and touch makes a lot of difference in their perceptions."