Hill west gate

This undated photo shows the West Gate entry point at Hill Air Force Base. The Air Force's massive, multibillion-dollar Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Test Program is being developed at Hill, on the west side of the installation.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force has finished an environmental review of a multibillion-dollar program headquartered at Hill Air Force Base that will replace the entire land-based portion of the U.S. nuclear enterprise.

The assessment, which began in September 2020, concludes the effort won’t pose a significant environmental risk.

Headquartered at Hill, the Department of Defense’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent test program will replace the United States’ current ground ballistic missile force, which is made up of some 400 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles. The full program is estimated to cost more than $80 billion over its 30-year lifespan. The total cost includes the acquisition of missiles, new command and control systems, and large-scale renovations of launch control centers.

Currently being built up near Hill’s southwest border with Roy, the program will eventually include six new buildings with over 1 million square feet of office and lab facilities. In August 2019, Northrop Grumman broke ground on the Roy Innovation Center, which will serve as future headquarters for Northrop’s work supporting the program.

Base officials and members of Utah’s congressional delegation have said the program will be the largest source of growth across the base during the next several years, expected to bring as many as 4,000 new employees along with the construction of the new buildings.

Though the program also encompasses work that will be conducted at Air Force bases in California, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, an Air Force notice on the Federal Register says maintenance, training, storage, testing, support, decommissioning and disposal actions would occur at Hill and the base’s Utah Test and Training Range on the Utah/Nevada border.

An Air Force press release says most of the testing aspect of the program will happen primarily at Hill and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Those tests would include conducting missile launches from Vandenberg AFB with flights over the Pacific Ocean in the Western Test Range. Additional test support activities would occur at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Tooele County.

As part of the program, construction at Hill includes five storage units and several support facilities. Another 11 missile storage facilities would be built at the UTTR. The Utah Legislature approved nearly $41 million of funding for the program during the 2021 general session.

The Air Force Environmental Assessment says construction-related emissions and noise at Hill and the UTTR will be short-term, temporary and confined to construction site areas, and notes that the work is not expected to cause harm to any archaeological or architectural resources. All hazardous material and waste associated with the program will be managed by Hill’s Hazardous Materials Management Plan, but the assessment notes that an existing solid waste management contract at Hill will be amended to accommodate the GBSD work.

In the assessment, the Air Force describes any adverse impacts associated with flight test activities as “negligible.” The same determination was made regarding transportation impacts expected to occur with the influx of personnel and infrastructure.

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