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Deputy Defense Secretary: F-35s will carry Hill AFB

The pilot told Stars and Stripes that the technology in the jet is “way far ahead of what we had before in previous aircraft. The way the systems work together is many steps ahead of what we had previously.”

HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- The Deputy Defense Secretary says that in a year of uncertainty -- which included massive cuts in military spending, a government shutdown and two separate furloughs for civilian Department of Defense employees -- the F-35 will carry Hill Air Force Base into the future.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter was in Ogden Tuesday, touring the base and speaking to a group of civilian and military employees.

Carter told the airmen and civilian workers in attendance for his address that the military's newest warplane, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, will make Hill viable for years to come despite the end of more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Carter said the DoD has the intention to devote more resources and attention to the Asian-Pacific theater, and the F-35 and all of its modern fighting capabilities will be at the forefront of that effort.

"(Hill) will host the F-35, which is the linchpin of our tactical future for all three services that will fly them," he said, "and Hill is going to have a big part in that future."

While he has high hopes for the F-35 at Hill, Carter was a little less enthusiastic about budgetary stringency the base will have to face as the country deals with deficit reduction.

Nearly 3,000 civilian employees at Hill were furloughed last month, along with hundreds of thousands of other federal workers when the government was partially shut down because of a budget impasse.

In the summer, nearly 11,000 civilian employees at Hill were forced out of work for six unpaid furlough days as the Pentagon dealt with spending cuts for the rest of the fiscal year.

Carter acknowledged the sacrifices Hill employees have made during this trying year and thanked them for enduring the uncertainly, but also said Washington is still in an ongoing budget sequester, which threatens to cut tens of billions of additional dollars from Pentagon spending next year.

"What's very difficult for us all to manage is the turbulence, uncertainty and just the mayhem that is Washington these days -- I have nothing good to say about that," he said. "Sequester, furloughs -- it's disgraceful, it's inexcusable, it's embarrassing. It shames us in front of others around the world that we can't manage our own internal affairs better."

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