HILL AIR FORCE BASE — As members of Utah’s congressional delegation push the federal government to prioritize a nuclear weapons modernization program at Hill Air Force Base, local officials are asking the transportation department to be aware of an influx of new jobs that will come with it.
Hill’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program involves crews on base working to develop a replacement for the Air Force’s fleet of Minuteman III nuclear missiles. The United States’ current land-based ballistic missile force is currently made up of some 400 Minuteman III ICBMs. The Air Force is upgrading the missiles, their rocket motors and other components, but plans to replace them through the GBSD program by about 2030.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the entire program will cost more than $60 billion and run for 30 years. The total cost includes the acquisition of missiles, new command and control systems, and another renovations of launch control centers.
The GBSD work, along with new programs at Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex and elsewhere on base, is expected to bring as many as 5,000 new employees to Hill — a 20 percent increase from the base’s current personnel total.
On May 15, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, highlighted the need to accelerate the GBSD program during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Romney said by 2021, 90 percent of Russia’s nuclear fleet will be modernized. Meanwhile, the senator said, the U.S.’s triad hasn’t been modernized since the 1980s.
“Congress must make the modernization of our nuclear deterrent a high priority — which includes standing up the Ground Based Strategic Defense Program at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base,” Romney said in a tweet following the committee hearing.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has also been a strong advocate for the program.
So while members of congress push the program at the national level, local officials say the state government should be on alert.
During a May 17 Utah Transportation Commission meeting, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson stressed to the commission the need for a robust, well-rounded transportation system in Davis County. Adams spoke in more general terms, while Stevenson underscored the GBSD program specifically.
“A lot of you are aware of what’s taking place up at Hill Air Force Base,” Stevenson said. “With the GBSD that’s coming in and the jobs that are going to be here, it’s one of the things that is going to continue to just expand the economy ... which comes back to the importance of moving people.”
Adams pointed at plans to expand U.S. 89, Interstate 15 and the construction of West Davis Corridor as much-needed projects, but also areas of potential traffic pitfall.
“I am really concerned, as we develop the West Davis Corridor, 89 and add a lane to I-15 that again, we’re going to have it all come together in Farmington,” he said.
Historically, Farmington has been a chokepoint along the freeway.
UDOT Region One Program Manager Nathan Peterson said the state already has projects planned to address the anticipated growth, like a widening of Antelope Drive, an extension of State Route 193 and a widening of 1800 North in Clinton with a new freeway interchange there into Hill’s Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park.
“There is an influx of growth in this area, specifically job growth at Hill Air Force Base,” he said. “We do have projects that are currently in the works to address that.”