HILL AIR FORCE BASE – After months of campaign rhetoric about the importance of Hill Air Force Base, freshman U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, R-District 1, finally had the opportunity to visit the critically important northern Utah military installation on Feb. 16.
“I felt like I was in an episode of ‘Top Gun’,” Moore laughed, referring to the hit 1986 movie about U.S. Navy fighter pilots starring Tom Cruise. “It was an absolute privilege to casually chat with some of the fighter pilots and airmen who work with the most incredible machines in existence in our military.”
During a comprehensive tour of the Air Force installation, Moore met with Air Force reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing and active duty personnel of the 388th Fighter Wing stationed there.
Those wings are the first combat-ready units equipped with the new F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
But Moore said that spending time with the fighter wing personnel was just a small part of the tour that highlighted all of the installation’s wide-ranging missions.
“Of course, the base commanders provided an information overload about all their activities and projects that I’ve been talking about on the campaign trail,” Moore explained. “That gave me the opportunity to really dig in and get answers for all the questions that I’ve had.
“Getting to walk through all the activities there…was a beneficial, hands-on experience,” he added. “It really emphasized to me just how important Hill Air Force base is to our military, our national defense and our allies. That’s because the work that’s being done here in northern Utah is so important to other governments as well as our own.”
Hill AFB is located in the southern portion of Moore’s 1st Congressional District, south of Ogden in Davis County.
In addition to hosting the new F-35 fighters, the missions now assigned to Hill AFB include providing maintenance support for F-16 and F-22 aircraft, repairing landing gear for both Air Force and Navy planes, munitions storage, training over the nearby Utah Testing Range in the West Desert and maintenance of the U.S. arsenal of 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
To Utah, however, the installation’s economic impact is nearly as important as its military capabilities.
Hill AFB is Utah’s sixth-largest employer. More than 10,000 service members and their dependents are assigned to the base, with many of them residing in the nearby communities of Layton, Clearfield, Riverdale, Roy and Sunset.
One of the base’s tenant organizations is the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, which employs more than 16,000 civilian workers. In 2019, Hill Air Force base pumped an estimated $3.7 billion into Utah’s economy, including annual payroll of nearly $1.5 billion and more than $800 million in local expenditures.
Those statistics illustrate why Moore and every other candidate vying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop in Congress pledged to protect Hill AFB at every opportunity during the run-up to the 2020 general election.
The junior congressman is being assisted in achieving that goal by members of the Utah Defense Alliance, an ad hoc group that lobbies for Hill AFB and other Utah installations.
UDA members based in Davis County say that, despite already having some 50 missions assigned, Hill AFB has to continually demonstrate to Congress and the Pentagon that it’s an efficient operation that can perform new missions for the least possible cost.
Moore says that one of the base’s most recent and important mission assignments is the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
The GBSD is a replacement nuclear weapons system for the Minuteman III missiles that are now based in silos throughout the western United States. The new missiles are being built by Northrop Grumman, an aerospace giant that recently acquired Utah’s own Orbital ATK Corp. The GBSD project is expected to take more than a decade at a cost of up to $85 billion.
“We spent a lot of time talking about the GBSD program,” Moore says, “discussing priorities, the status of various elements of the project and current updates.
“We’ll continue to do more indepth work on that program. It’s definitely a priority that we’re focusing on in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.”
Moore’s responsibilities in the 117th Congress include serving on the House Armed Services Committee.