SALT LAKE CITY -- Hill Air Force Base should continue to operate based on its merits, not based on politics, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.
Herbert met with the media to discuss different issues, including a possible round of Base Realignment and Closure changes that could take place in the next few years as the Department of Defense looks to cut its budget.
'I don't think Hill Air Force Base should be politicized," Herbert said.
Herbert said he is concerned that the final decisions made by the military will be based on political muscle, not on the base's merits. Hill Air Force Base is the state's largest employer, where more than 24,000 people work.
Herbert said the Legislature is working to keep the state's economy growing and keep unemployment rates down.
He said he supports the Legislature's proposal to provide $500,000 to the Utah Defense Alliance to begin the process of lobbying in Washington on behalf of the base.
Herbert said he hopes the $500,000 will be enough to begin the process. The Utah Defense Alliance is a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers from the community who promote the base. They worked during the last two BRAC rounds to keep the base open.
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 fighter jet of the future. In 2010, the base was chosen as the Air Force's preferred alternative for the location of the first two operational squadrons of the advanced fighter.
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.