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On guard: Utah plays a major role in the nation's defense.

It started as an appendage to the nation's defense program, an embellishment of the U.S. Air Force's supply support system of the 1930s, but has since become so much more. Today, Utah's role in the nation's defense industry is nothing short of one that is critically important, increasingly developed and well praised.

The Beehive State is a crucial cog in the modern military establishment. From housing one of the nation's most highly regarded Air Force bases to the team that manufactures components of missiles, guidance systems and armament, Utah is no longer a state simply enlisted in military affairs--it is a major player. And, two announcements last fall continued to ensure Utah's place in the nation's defense system.

It really began with the creation of Hill Air Force Base in Davis County in the 1930s. One of seven permanent stations built mostly to supply the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. Air Force, the military soon realized what it had in this diamond in the rough. Hill quickly grew with the advent of World War II into an employer of more than 22,000; 16,000 were civilians. Over time, the base expanded to its current 6,700 acres, branched out into supply depots in Clearfield and Ogden, and eventually led to the federal government's management of more than 962,000 acres of land in northern Utah. Today, Hill Field still boasts a workforce of more than 23,000, with an extended employee base exceeding 30,000.

But it didn't stop with Hill. Utah's emphasis on high technology, manufacturing and advanced composites fed the state's expansion into aerospace--closely related to military support. Thiokol, Hexcel, Alliant Technologies, Hercules and L3 Communications, all companies headquartered or located in Utah, became crucial partners in both the defense and aerospace industries.

Home Secure Home

"We're innovators, we always have been," says Marshall Wright, director of business development for Homeland Security and Defense with the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development. "Utah has some very diverse companies. We've shown the innovation necessary to save and protect our war fighters, both in the air and on the ground, and eventually will in maritime use as well."

Nowhere was that more apparent than the announcement last fall that the U.S. Army will set up its Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center at Dugway Proving Ground. Prior to the announcement made on Sept. 23, 2009, administrators of the program, headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, conducted a nationwide survey to find the best place to test and develop the defense industry's newest weapon--a state-of-the-art unmanned aerial system.

"They chose Utah," Wright says proudly. "We had the environment they wanted, we were close to L3 Communications which builds major components of the system, and we had the workforce they desired. Between 200 to 300 jobs will be created just to begin with in this program."

Dugway will integrate systems and conduct testing on the U.S. Army's Hunter, Shadow and Sky Warrior Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The center's primary missions will be to consolidate all acceptance testing of the UAVs and to help the Army streamline the introduction of new UAV technology to combat units.

"What Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us is that we need boots on the ground, that there is a need for conventional defense," Wright says. "These systems provide more safety in the field. Military leaders think of combat missions in regards to the three D's--dirty, dull and dangerous--and those types of missions lend themselves to unmanned systems."

"This decision shows the Army recognizes just how ideal Dugway Proving Ground is for this vitally important work," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) stated in a press release after the announcement. Hatch says he asked Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, to consider Dugway for the center. "It is a testament to the quality of Utah's workforce, which time after time has delivered superior service and product to keep our nation strong and Americans safe."

Wright says the need for UAVs became clearer after the war in Kosovo.

"It was the first time unmanned systems had been used by our troops," he says. "It proved successful, but there was no logistic support, revenue streams were weak, and it took time and refinement for the military to become comfortable with those systems. Commanders won't rely on any system if they don't understand it, can't fix it and aren't trained on it."

Utah, he says, is strong in all facets of unmanned systems, "growing out of our strength in computer systems, software and controls systems."

"The benefits of RIAC will spill over into many other areas of the state," says Gary Harter, managing director of the GOED sector for aerospace and defense. "At least six major subcontractors in Utah will work on this program, not to mention the strong supply chain we have locally."

He sees Utah's emergence over the past half century in the military establishment as "the result of work well done. We set standards, and grew in other capacities while at the same time giving the military exactly what they asked us for."

Wright adds that Hill Field's Logistics Support Center is rated at Level 5, the highest quality control level in the Air Force.

"Hill receives a lot of Air Force systems to refurbish and maintain," he says. "Many of our state's software engineers become government employees, with all the benefits that come with those jobs." Harter gives Wright much of the credit for the RIAC decision.

"It was Marshall's work with the military that made this happen," he says. "The government is always looking for better ways to do things and better places at which to do them. He's certainly been instrumental in singing our praises as a state and workforce."


F-35 Landing Ground

The news continued to get brighter for the state in late October, when Hill AFB officials announced that the base is one of three Air Force bases that will receive between one and three squadrons of the F-35A Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter. Hill was chosen, along with Mountain Home AFB in Idaho and Shaw AFB in South Carolina, from a list of 204 bases across the country. The F-35A is a stealth fighter and will replace the F-16 and A-10 fighter/strike aircraft. Eventually, the USAF plans to purchase 1,700 of the fighters.

Hill employees have also been busy with refurbishing of the A-10s, helping the aging aircraft fly longer while the new generation of fighters is developed.

"That is a recognition of the great work done by Hill," Harter says. "The military has placed its trust in Hill employees to extend the life of those fighters."

It goes beyond just the fighting military. On Oct. 23, one of the worst-kept secrets among state officials became an official announcement. Camp Williams, on the Salt Lake-Utah County line, beat out 37 other sites nationwide for a $1.5 billion national cybersecurity data center. The National Security Agency project will employ as many as 10,000 workers during its construction, and about 100 to 200 full-time employees once it's operational in two years.

Though the NSA is tight-lipped about what the center's function will be, it's generally believed that its employees will work on developing intelligence and criminal investigations for cybersecurity--computers, cell phones and e-mails. It's been in the planning stages for years--the NSA has already spent more than $200 million in planning and design work, and President Obama has signed a bill that included another $165 million for construction.

"When you combine all of our strengths--technologists, fiber, our sources of energy, a trained workforce and academia--and couple that with our location, which is out of the mainstream, Utah is the logical choice," Wright says.
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Title Annotation:Special * Report
Comment:On guard: Utah plays a major role in the nation's defense.(Special * Report)
Author:Haraldsen, Tom
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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