Bishop committee OKs bill that would boost Top of Utah

May 20 2010 - 11:44pm



Federal legislation that could help advance Top of Utah defense-related projects -- including items for Alliant Techsystems, the city of Ogden and Hill Air Force Base -- is on its way to a full floor in the U.S. House.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and fellow members of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday night approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011.

Some of the Top of Utah items in the bill include:

* $7.5 million in additional funding to maintain a "warm" line for the Minuteman III program, an ATK-related project.

* $2.8 million in funding for an F-22 Engine Test Cell Facility at Hill Air Force Base.

* Full funding for continued procurement of the F-35 fighter at planned fiscal year 2011 levels.

* Directions on transferring title of 2.5 acres at the former Defense Depot Ogden to the city of Ogden.

Both ATK and Hill Air Force Base are tied to the continued development of the Minuteman III project, a missile program that was slated to be mothballed by the defense department.

Bishop said he has been working to get years of funding in the governmental pipeline to keep ATK missile production minimally available for the military as part of a strong national defense.

"The additional funding to maintain a warm line for the Minuteman III program will ensure we don't lose that strategic capability as well," he said.

He estimates 150 jobs could be saved at ATK if the money is eventually approved by lawmakers.

The F-35 is the next- generation fighter plane for the Pentagon. Air Force officials said Hill Air Force Base is among the bases that could house a wing of the F-35s.

ATK already has a contract for composite work on the plane.

The National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision, sponsored by Bishop, that directs the Army to coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services on transferring title of 2.5 acres at the former Defense Depot Ogden, now Business Depot Ogden, to the city of Ogden for further economic development.

The land at Bailey Boulevard and 1200 West is vacant.

"We hope to put it to some good use," said John Patterson, Ogden's chief administrative officer.

Also included in the bill is language sponsored by Bishop that criticizes NASA for its efforts to terminate the Constellation program without sufficiently consulting with the Department of Defense.

Bishop said it is another effort to put pressure on President Barack Obama, who announced in April he wanted to reconfigure Constellation, the next-generation moon program started by the Bush administration.

ATK is developing the rocket motor for Constellation, and several thousand ATK jobs are tied to its continued development.

"Everything I am doing is trying to make sure there are multiple voices (supporting Constellation) that are going back to the administration," Bishop said.

Most military items are developed in a two-step process on Capitol Hill. The Authorization Act, which sets policies and authorizes programs and funding levels for the Department of Defense and the nation's military, first must pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the president.

The second step is an appropriations bill that follows the same process.

Bishop said the House could vote on the Authorization Act in the next few weeks.

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