Chances Slim for $15 Million to Avoid Base Closures

Chances Slim for $15 Million to Avoid Base Closures

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As the legislative session nears an end, the chance of $15 million being apportioned to help save Utah's military installations from the next round of base closures appears slim.

The $15 million sought by the Utah Defense Alliance would be used to buy equipment that would bring hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to Hill and other military installations in the state.

The Hill Bill, as it has been dubbed, has passed the Senate and has made it through a House committee, but the allocation has been reduced from $15 million to $5 million.

Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, says at least $5 million is absolutely critical to begin the job-creation process.

Some Hill Air Force Base boosters fear there's a false sense of security that Utah's interests will be protected by former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, who has been nominated for the Base Realignment and Closure commission.

"It's always been their way of thinking," Chris Dallin, president of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, said of legislators outside the Hill area. "If Jim Hansen is there, then we don't have to worry about it. That's how they felt when he was in Congress, and now that's how they feel about him on the commission."

Such reliance is contrary to what Hansen said after his nomination in January. "I'm not there as a representative of the state of Utah," he said. "I am there to do what's best for the United States military, to help them get more money, to put more money into a modern military.

"The simple thing is I'm not your congressman. There's quite a distinction there."

Rick Mayfield and Vickie McCall of the defense alliance are trying to fight any legislative sense of complacency.

They feel the possibility of Hansen being part of the nine-person panel makes it important that the state be able to woo the other eight.

The Department of Defense will release its proposed list of bases to close in May. BRAC commissioners will then visit the bases and do their own analysis, releasing a final list sometime in the fall.

If a base is on the closure list, seven of the nine commissioners would have to agree to remove it from the list.

If Hansen recused himself from discussions on Hill, there could be no more than one Hill opponent on the commission if the base were to be saved.

"I don't want legislators to be complacent, thinking this isn't going to happen now that Jim's here," Mayfield said. "Jim Hansen is not going to be able to save us by himself if we're on the list. If we're on the list, it's just going to be mighty tough to be taken off."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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