Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, complained Monday that the Air Force is not sending as many jobs to Utah as it should from planned closures of Air Force bases elsewhere.
Hatch said the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Ralph Eberhart, told him Monday that it plans to move 281 military and 1,591 civilian jobs to Hill Air Force Base from McClellan Air Force Base, California, and Kelly Air Force Base, Texas.However, Hatch said the original base-closure plan envisioned moving 5,400 jobs to Utah, which was later pared down to 4,700 through attrition.
"It leaves about 3,200 jobs at Sacramento (McClellan) unaccounted for," Hatch complained.
Worse, Hatch says it appears the Air Force has spent money intended to help close McClellan to improve its facilities instead - possibly to help private contractors keep jobs in place there by improving their ability to win public-private competition for such work.
Hatch said, "It is believed they (the funds) were spent on making facility improvement at McClellan that would facilitate work by private contractors in the public-private competition that Congress authorized in the '97 defense authorization bill.
"This is one of my several questions that the Air Force has yet to answer."
Hatch added, "At a time when we have Air Force aircraft poised for combat in the Middle East, I find it unconscionable to divert needed funds from the purchase of spare and repair parts to sustain unnecessary depot capacity."
Hatch also complained - as Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, did earlier - that it appears the Air Force does not plan to close the Texas and California bases until the last possible moment allowed by law in 2001, which may also hurt Hill.
He said he doesn't know "if the 1,591 civilian jobs offered by the Air Force will be transferred this year or left at McClellan until as late as September 2001. That date, as some will note, is conveniently after the presidential election in 2000."
Hansen has complained that delaying the closure of the bases will cost more than $497 million a year according to the Air Force's own estimates, and more according to outside studies.
Hatch said, "I am disappointed by the extent to which the Clinton administration has `politically contaminated' serving military personnel by making them unwitting accomplices to attempts to support Democratic plans to capture California's congressional and presidential races" by keeping the jobs in place.
Of course, Republicans and Clinton have fought over the bases for years after Clinton initially refused to follow a base closure commission's orders to shut down the two bases.
He promised vote-rich California and Texas he would keep the bases' jobs in place by giving work in place to private contractors - but Republicans finally blocked such efforts last year.
Hatch and Hansen have often said that if the Texas and California bases are not truly shut down, it makes Hill (Utah's single largest employer) vulnerable to future base closures because it will not be used to full capacity - increasing its overhead costs.