Defense budget includes $50 million Hill Air Force Base construction project

Saturday , July 01, 2017 - 5:15 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — This year’s national defense budget includes more than $50 million for new construction at Hill Air Force Base and a pair of policy changes to help the installation bring in new hires.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which currently totals more than $600 billion, will be considered by the House during the second week of July. The bill includes $51.1 million for three construction projects at Hill.

The projects include a $3.1 million aircraft testing and evaluation center, a $28 million aircraft control center at the Utah Test and Training Range and a $20 million fuel pump house that will supply fuel to aircraft on base.  

RELATED: Congress approves massive Air Force test range expansion

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the bill also calls for a full funding for the defense department’s F-35 program. In an email to the Standard-Examiner, Bishop said the F-35 funding, paired with Hill’s construction projects, “secures the base as the home of the (F-35) for a long time to come.”

Steve Petersen, Bishop’s senior counsel said the bill also includes a stipulation that will extend direct hiring authority to all Air Force maintenance depots, including Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

Peterson said Hill has had trouble filling highly qualified positions, like engineers, at its depot because of laborious, bureaucratic hiring practices. 

To be hired for those positions, candidates had to run through a maze of red tape, even reporting and interviewing with the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio

A two-year pilot program to allow direct hiring authority for depots, arsenals, and other was instituted last year, but the 2018 bill will extend the program by an additional four years.

Peterson said the move will help address shortages in direct, “mission-related” positions at Hill.  

RELATED: Air Force will hire contractors to do active-duty maintenance work

The Air Force has been plagued by a maintainer shortage for several years now. In 2016, the Air Force estimated they were about 4,000 maintainers short of what was needed and began hiring contractors to do maintenance work typically performed by active-duty members of the Air Force.

The bill also includes a measure to make the pay of maintenance employees more competitive with what they’d typically receive in the private sector. The action also includes pay increases beyond a maintenance employees federal pay schedule, if they posses certain qualifications. 

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