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One hour to make case to base committee

Utah leaders to focus on state’s ‘defense synergy’ at hearing

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One hour.

That's all the time Utah leaders will have to plead their case to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

But is it enough?

"There is very little time to address the commission," said Vickie McCall, Utah Defense Alliance president. "You just can't do much."

The time crunch only gets worse.

Commissioners will spend just five hours touring Hill Air Force Base during their visit Monday. McCall said it's nearly impossible to show commissioners the "complexity of Hill Air Force Base in five hours."

"I don't think they need any more than that," said BRAC commissioner Jim Hansen, a former Utah congressman.

Hill escaped the Pentagon's May 13 list of base closures and realignments with relatively little damage: A proposed realignment could cause a net loss of 145 jobs. But Hill isn't safe yet. BRAC could add Utah's largest employer to the final list, due out in September.

Hansen told the Deseret Morning News that base backers need not worry.

"Maybe we don't have to see the whole base," he said. "The whole base is not under the microscope, it's just that one part of it."

That one part is one of the few missions Hill is slated to lose per the Pentagon's recommendations — 15 of the 419th Fighter Wing's F-16s will be moved to other military installations in Florida and Texas if the commission agrees.

BRAC commissioners are expected to tour Hill from 7:45 a.m. until 1 p.m. on June 6. Commissioner Lloyd "Fig" Newton, a retired Air Force general, will join Hansen and possibly commission chair Anthony Principi or Philip Coyle during the trip to Utah.

The commissioners will then head south to Salt Lake City for an expected 2 p.m. regional hearing at the Salt Palace.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and members of the state's congressional delegation are expected to make brief statements. Then a representative from the Utah Defense Alliance will have about 40 minutes to plead Hill's case, McCall said.

"We are going to focus on the defense synergy in Utah and that would encompass Tooele (Army Depot), Dugway (Proving Ground), Deseret (Chemical Depot) and Hill and how we all play together, and certainly the importance of the Utah Test and Training Range," McCall said. "That's jointness, and that plays to the criteria that they have outlined."

The remaining 15 minutes of the meeting are designated for a question-and-answer session between BRAC commissioners and Utah's base-closure team.

BRAC commissioners have until Sept. 8 to send their recommendations on base closures and realignments to the president for his consideration.

"We will be open, independent, fair and equitable, and we will ensure that the people and communities affected by the Department of Defense's proposals have, through our site visits and public hearing, a chance to provide us with direct input on the substance of the proposals and on the methodology and assumptions behind those proposals," Principi said.

Hearing is Monday

Base Realignment and Closure commissioners will visit the state for a regional hearing Monday at 2 p.m.

Salt Palace Convention Center

100 S. West Temple

Salt Lake City

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com