Move of Air Guard to Hill Air Force Base Supported

SALT LAKE CITY - A House committee approved a resolution Monday that urges support for moving Utah Air National Guard operations to Hill Air Force Base.

Moving operations from the east side of Salt Lake City International Airport to Hill Air Force Base would allow opportunities to expand and better fulfill state and national security missions, said resolution sponsor Rep. Val Peterson, R- Orem.

"This could create greater efficiencies and make Hill Air Force Base an even stronger member of our national defense," Peterson said.

Lawmakers charged the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force in 2012 to compile a study of the Air Force to decide how to best fulfill its current and future tasks, and Peterson said HCR10 resulted from the study's recommendations.

The U.S. Air Force recognizes the "strategic value and location of Hill Air Force Base" next to the Utah Test and Training Range because the range offers open-air training and testing opportunities that "support day-to-day training, large force training exercises, and large footprint weapons testing," the resolution states.

Maj. Aaron Drake, Utah National Guard state judge advocate, said the guard's equipment is "outgrowing current ranges" because "certain weapon systems require greater space," and the current Salt Lake City base isn't equipped to handle future needs.

"Right now, together with many partners, community leaders (and) political leaders, we are engaged in a broad effort to enhance and expand the value that Utah adds to our national defense," Drake said. "We understand more than ever we simply cannot continue to do business the way it has always been done. We can't afford it. It's becoming less effective in today's complex security environment."

For example, Guard officials have said the KC-135 refueling tankers are nearing the end of their lifespan, and the Salt Lake City airbase won't be able to facilitate their replacement, since the new tanker, the KC-46, would need a larger ramp and area than what they now have.

Drake said by moving to Hill Air Force Base and through "consolidation and recapitalization of infrastructure," the guard will avoid future costs.

"We will position ourselves to be best prepared for this complex security environment in which we find ourselves now and certainly into the future," Drake said.