This past Monday, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley toured Hill AFB at the invitation of Utah’s Congressional delegation.
It was the secretary’s second visit to the base, which is not only Davis County’s largest employer, but also the largest single-site workplace in the state.
The delegation believes it is crucial for officials such as Donley to get out of the Washington Beltway and see what actually happens here.
That’s particularly important as President Obama has announced a need for massive defense spending cuts. The need for cuts isn’t disputed by the delegation – just how the scalpel is applied.
They all believe it’s important that Donley and others understand what happens at Hill so cuts can be adjusted that allow the base to continue its crucial role in the nation’s defense.
During his time in Davis County, the secretary saw the base’s industrial, operational and training capabilities. He also visited with private defense contractors.
“It’s good for him (Donley) to see all of the different kind of programs,” Rep. Rob Bishop said.
“It’s not only about a very good workforce, but the base also has unique community support. It has such a varied mission that it becomes a really significant cog in the military preparedness for our country,” he said.
The secretary needs to remember such pluses as the Utah Test & Training Range, the second largest such facility in the nation – and its vital role to testing aircraft and mission simulation.
The base is home to maintenance operations for the aging F-16, now about 35-years-old and counting.
As equipment becomes older, it is ever-more important to assure that it is properly maintained – with the staff at Hill seasoned and capable to perform such a function.
The base also houses the fighting missions with the public faces of the 419th and 388th Fighter Wings.
About 23,000 people work on the base, most of them civilians drawn from the community – and that includes hundreds, if not thousands, from south Davis.
Hill AFB is an economic engine that helps keep the county’s economy stable and running, a factor that was recently noted by the state’s Northern Utah economist.
A study completed several years ago indicated that if the base were to close, thousands of homes would be vacated because there would be too many people and not enough remaining jobs in the area.
That study was in reaction to a Base Realignment & Closure round – a factor that has again been mentioned as possible.
Bishop and others don’t believe it will necessarily happen.
“I know House (of Representatives) leadership is opposed to another round. The Armed Services (committee) chairman said he is unalterably opposed,” the congressman told The Davis Clipper.
“I’ll fight with everything I can” against it, he said. “We don’t need to close more bases, we need to adequately fund what we actually have, give our men and women in uniform the new and modern equipment they need.”
The others in Utah’s delegation would most assuredly agree.
Davis County is very fortunate to have Hill AFB. It has made benefits possible that we probably can’t even imagine.
Let’s hope another BRAC isn’t called, putting Hill’s future under the microscope. But if it is, this community will rally mightily and effectively, as it has in the past.