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The Utah Senate on Wednesday confirmed Gary Harter, a former commander of the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground, as director of the newly named Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs.

Earlier, Harter told the Senate Government Operations Confirmation Committee that his vision is to "have Utah be the best in the country for military members and veterans and their families."

After retiring from the Army, Harter went to work with the Governor's Office of Economic Development's defense and homelands security cluster, working with military installations throughout the state.

In 2007, he became a managing director of all industry sectors, including information technology, life sciences, international development programs for trade missions, innovation and small businesses, among others.

"At the core of it, though, I always worked with the military throughout Utah," Harter said.

Under the department — formerly known as the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs — veterans' services, military affairs and installation outreach were combined, he said. Among his responsibilities are providing information and recommendations and working with veterans' services.

"We have more than 150,000 veterans in Utah across all services, conflicts and needs," Harter said, as well as the V.A. health care complex in Salt Lake City, new veterans' nursing homes in Ivins and Payson and cemeteries.

But of those 150,000, only 30,000 to 40,000 have had their eligibility check for services, among them health care, job training, employment, education and housing, he said, adding that a new employee will help coordinate those needs and outcomes.

Peg McEntee