Making sure Hill Air Force Base is not a casualty to budget cuts and upcoming base closures his top priority, says Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Even though Air Force officials know the importance of Hill Air Force Base and the work that goes on there, a lot of work needs to be done to ensure the safety of the base, he said.
"We've been making that case for years," Hatch said during a phone interview Wednesday with the Standard-Examiner.
"There's a lot of pressure on the secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force chief of staff and others to be able to restrain some of the spending along with the president's desire to downgrade the military.
"We have to hang in there and make our case whenever we can. I've been doing that for 36 years."
President Barack Obama will outline his 2013 budget Monday. However, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently gave a preview that included plans to cut military spending as the military recovers from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hatch said he recently had good conversations with Air Force officials, but they are under a lot of pressure to save money. He also has meetings set up in the coming weeks to discuss the matter with high-ranking Air Force officials.
Last week, the Air Force released a 12-page document that included detailed plans to cut the service by nearly 10,000 active, National Guard and Reserve airmen in 2013.
The plan also reiterated the Air Force's commitment to the F-35A as its future fighter.
The F-35A will be maintained at two bases, including Hill, which will receive the first F-35As off the assembly lines.
Panetta also announced the plans for rounds of base closures in 2013 and 2015.
However, Hatch said he does not expect the first round to happen until 2014.
"I will be in close consultation with Air Force officials, Gov. Gary Herbert and state legislators to lay out why Hill is second to none and must remain open to keep America safe," he said.
Hatch said he understands the importance of getting military spending under control, but said the result will be disastrous if decisions are not made the right way.
"Hill has more than justified its existence," he said. "We're going to help them continue to do so."
Hatch also will continue to meet with local government officials, who also are fighting for Hill.
Herbert issued a statement last week supporting a proposal by legislators to give the Utah Defense Alliance $500,000 to promote Hill so Utah is represented during future base closure processes.
On Wednesday, retired Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke called on Herbert to work proactively and positively with Utah's local and federal allies to preserve Hill.
Cooke is concerned about Herbert's recent comments that Utah needs to get off "federal crack" and that the state is at a disadvantage in this process under a Democratic administration.
Cooke said in a statement that he understands Herbert "does not intend those remarks to put Hill Air Force Base in a position of vulnerability, or to disparage our men and women in uniform."
"However," he continued, "the fact remains that such political rhetoric does not make us any friends, and now is a time to call on all our allies to circle the wagons and protect Hill Air Force Base."
Ally Isom, Herbert's deputy chief of staff, said the governor has been actively engaged in the fight to defend Hill.
"The governor made extensive comments last week that he strongly supports $500,000 in the state budget to assist in the efforts to defend Hill Air Force Base as a critical defense asset. We look forward to working with General Cooke and others to ensure the decisions made around Hill are based on good facts and not politics," Isom stated in an email to the Standard-Examiner.
"It is inaccurate to construe the governor's remarks about federal policy overreach, particularly in the arenas of public lands and health, as a criticism of Hill Air Force Base, when the governor's public record speaks loud and clear to the contrary."