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Utah Base Advocate Keeps Eye on BRAC

Utah Base Advocate Keeps Eye on BRAC

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Vickie McCall is taking no ch ances.

The president of the Utah Defense Alliance, the group that has lobbied to keep Utah's military installations off the Pentagon's chopping block, will be in the nation's capital Friday when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission is expected to address changes to Air Force installations. It won't be a public meeting, but she's hoping to bend a few ears during committee breaks to prevent any surprise cuts to the Utah facilities.

Based on Pentagon recommendations released May 13, Utah stands to lose about 400 civilian and military jobs.

"Right now, we're feeling pretty good but you never know till it's over," McCall said Wednesday.

Commissioners, including former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, made significant changes to Pentagon requests on Wednesday when it voted to keep open a shipyard and a submarine base in New England. McCall expects similar changes to Air Force installations when they come up for votes.

"We're just crossing our fingers, hoping that we do well," she said.

She said she's been in contact with Hansen on a daily basis.

"He says there will be changes, but he hasn't suggested anything regarding Utah," she said.

The commission started its four-day meeting Wednesday to vote on a list of 900 military installations nationwide tagged for closing, downsizing or in some cases, growth. Even though Air Force installations weren't scheduled for votes until later this week, the agenda could change, making it unclear when commissioners might vote on Utah facilities.

The Pentagon's May recommendations would result in a handful of jobs being lost at Fort Douglas and at the Tooele Army Depot. The Deseret Chemical Depot will also close if the Pentagon's recommendations hold.

Of the projected job losses in Utah, the committee list recommended a net loss of only 145 of Hill's 24,000 jobs. Few expected the base -- which is estimated to contribute $4 billion to the state's economy -- to be closed or significantly scaled back because Hill's mission as an air logistics center is an important one.

Hill's aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets would be reassigned to installations in Florida, replaced by newer F-16s -- a move that could ultimately expand Hill's workload, members of Utah's congressional delegation have said.

The recommendation on the Deseret Chemical Depot, which contributes an estimated $200 million to the economy in the state each year, would affect about 1,500 jobs, while Dugway Proving Ground contributes roughly $118 million and 1,400 jobs.

The Deseret Chemical Depot's recommended closure was not a surprise since the facility's mission -- destroying a portion of the nation's chemical stockpile -- is expected to be completed in 2012.

The depot's eventual closure will likely affect about 250 jobs at that time, the Department of Defense has said, but state officials have hoped many of those people would retire when it closes and stay in the Tooele area.

The Tooele Army Depot provides an estimated $85 million in economic impact and 651 jobs -- and is one of just four depots around the country that stores "high-turnover" munitions the military moves out first in war.

The Pentagon list also recommended realigning Fort Douglas, the Army reserve post, affecting 53 jobs.

The closures and downsizings would occur over six years starting in 2006.

The commission will forward its recommendations by Sept. 8 to President Bush, who has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the list in its entirety.

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

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