SALT LAKE CITY -- Local lawmakers are gearing up to prevent Hill Air Force Base from becoming a casualty in any Base Realignment and Closure action that may occur as the Defense Department cuts its budget.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, on Tuesday presented to the Senate Republican Caucus a proposal to set aside $500,000 for the Utah Defense Alliance, a nonprofit organization that has played a key role in keeping the base open during BRACs in 1995 and 2005.
Caucus meetings are closed to the public.
Hill is home to between 23,000 and 24,000 civilian and military personnel.
There are not words strong enough to express "how devastating and catastrophic" the economic effects would be to Northern Utah and the entire state if Hill were to close, said Majority Leader Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace.
Stevenson said the proposed funds would go to the governor's economic development agency, which then would disburse the money to UDA.
UDA, which consists of volunteers from the community, would use the funds for travel to Washington, D.C., and to hire lobbyists who could help promote Utah, said Tage Flint, UDA chairman.
Stevenson said lawmakers will not have a definite amount for UDA until almost the end of the session, maybe even the last night.
Dee said he does not think $500,000 will be enough money to "paint the correct picture" for the people involved in deciding Hill's fate.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced plans to cut spending as the military recovers from a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of that plan could involve closing military bases.
Hill is one of three air logistics centers, the others being Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, home of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, and Robins AFB in Georgia, home of the Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center.
Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said both of those bases have "sizeable war chests and they can lobby Washington, D.C., while Utah does not have the war chest."
Flint said a study conducted seven years ago by the University of Utah shows that it would take 10 years for Salt Lake County to recover economically if HAFB were closed.
It would take 30 years for Davis County to recover, and the time it would take for Weber County to recover "was indeterminate."
"Without a doubt, this is the most important issue the state can talk about right now from the standpoint of economics and quality of life," Wilson said.
Dee agrees, saying, "We need to let the current administration know how important to Utah the base is."
He said the House Republican Caucus plans to discuss the issue soon.