HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Three Utah government officials are claiming victory after the U.S. Air Force decided not to change its Air Depot Maintenance Strategy.
Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch (seen speaking in April at right) and Mike Lee and Rep. Rob Bishop were among the 13 members of the Senate Depot Caucus and the House of Representatives who signed a letter to the Air Force's leadership urging the Air Force to stick to its original plan.
According to a news release from Hatch's office, the Air Force had been in discussions about changing its Air Depot Strategy, and part of that would have a big effect on Hill Air Force Base.
Instead, the Air Force announced Tuesday that the plan will go forward.
"I appreciate that the Air Force understands the concerns I and others had, and that it has agreed to stick with the original plan to bring these jobs to Utah," Hatch said.
"For more than 70 years, the personnel at Hill have been leading the way in ensuring that the greatest fighting force the world has ever known has the tools and resources they need to keep America free. This decision significantly increases the savings and efficiencies created by the Depot Maintenance Strategy, while also creating jobs. It's a win-win."
Public affairs officials at Hill were not aware of the announcement when contacted Tuesday by the Standard-Examiner and were not able to comment on the matter.
In September, Hill opened a new F-22 Raptor facility along the base's flightline that is used for depot-level maintenance on the fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Maintenance includes corrosion control, paint, modification and heavy maintenance and other programmed modifications.
Recently, however, the Air Force was considering not moving many of the program managers, which included engineers and procurement officials, for the F-22 Raptor to Hill, which had previously been planned.
In the letter, government officials argued that the program managers responsible for sustainment at the Air Logistics Centers should be near the depot maintainers. That would allow the program managers and depot maintainers to easily communicate when devising plans for the maintenance or modification of a weapon system.
While those in favor of the change of plan may argue that there would be savings should the Air Force not follow the original plan, the group behind the letter argues that such savings would be short-lived and pale in comparison to the long-term efficiencies that will be created by implementing the plan.
While he is happy that the Air Force is still bringing those jobs to Hill, Bishop is aware other changes could be coming.
"I remain alarmed that the Air Force may be on the verge of recommending some very significant reorganizational decisions regarding the future management of other weapon systems which, if true, will set the clock back on best management practices learned over the past three decades," Bishop said.
"I, along with Senators Hatch and Lee, will be monitoring the situation and working with other congressional and military leaders to ensure that the Air Force continues to adhere to long-standing and proven Air Force policy with regard to the need to continue to co-locate the acquisition and sustainment of major weapons systems. This will ensure the utmost efficiency of our resources from both a technical and financial standpoint."