BOUNTIFUL - Hill AFB “seems to be well positioned” to weather any budget cuts.
That’s the opinion of Tage Flint, president of the Utah Defense Alliance. It’s a view shared by Rep. Rob Bishop, in whose district the base lies.
“It’s like a mixed message for Hill,” Bishop said. “Hill will be treated fairly well. The biggest loss for Hill will be of A-10 work.”
Any loss from A-10 work should be offset by F-35 maintenance work, which it’s hoped will be increased, Flint said.
“There’s so little to actually hang your hat on,” he said. “But with a lot of tenants and a lot of different kinds of work being done there,” that’s a factor that should play in the base’s favor.
Bishop said the cuts to A-10 work are somewhat like being “penny wise and pound foolish” in terms of any cost savings when other platforms may be more expensive.
“We have fought long and hard on the ICBM, and they have put R&D (resource and development) money in,” Bishop said. Cuts by eight aircraft for the F-35 shouldn’t impact Hill, meanwhile, he said.
“With the exception of the A-10, I think Hill will be pretty secure with this budget,” the congressman said.
“We feel comfortable with the status of the base right now,” Flint said. “We’re always interested in seeing them receiving new work. The UDA sees that as one of our purviews, to watch out for things that might be potential future work, and how well we stack up against the other bases.”
The potential for another BRAC, or Base Realignment & Closure round, still looms, both agreed.
Bishop said he specifically asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is he’d consider doing a BRAC without congressional approval.
“He implied he has the authority, which is a half-truth,” Bishop said. “He can shift programs around, but not cut bases without Congressional approval.
“He has the authority to create chaos, not solve problems,” Bishop said.
The District 1 congressman said he continues to ask how much taxpayer funding is still used to support bases that have been closed. Some have been converted into national monuments, for example, meaning they’re still dependent on tax funds to operate.
Congress passed legislation in 2013 prohibiting the beginning of another BRAC, but Bishop said, “We’ll see what happens.”
For UDA’s part, Flint said “the idea is to promote that Hill is well-suited to do well in a BRAC situation. We would do well to even receive new work that they don’t currently do, or additional work in line with what they already do.”
In related activity, he said the legislature has put funding in the still unapproved budget that would support UDA efforts.
That would include funds to look at moving the Air National Guard base from the Salt Lake International Airport to Hill.