Darrell Todd Maurina
A new commission created by the state Legislature to help New Mexico military installations holds its first meeting today in Las Cruces and will discuss the upcoming federal Base Realignment and Closure process, known as BRAC.
The 15-member commission is part of the New Mexico Economic Development Department and includes three Clovis residents, Randy Harris, E.O. “Doc” Stewart and Chad Lydick. The commission’s director, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Hanson Scott, said the three have urged the group to meet next in Clovis.
“New Mexico’s military bases have not only strategic value to the nation, but also drive significant regional economies, which is why Governor Richardson established the Office of Military Base Planning and Support immediately upon assuming office,” said Rick Homans, secretary of economic development, in a prepared statement.
While today’s meeting will specifically address White Sands Missile Base and Holloman Air Force Base, Scott said federal consideration of base closures and realignments affects all four New Mexico military installations, including Cannon Air Force Base.
“We are dealing with all of the New Mexico installations,” Scott said. “We will give briefings on White Sands and Holloman, but the issue affects all military bases.”
Scott, who previously served in a different division of the Economic Development Department as the executive director of the Office for Space Commercialization, listed on his biography for that position that in 1995 he served as a member of the steering committee of the Kirtland Air Force Base Retention Task Force. According to the biography, that organization worked with community leaders and the New Mexico Congressional delegation and was successful in preventing a significant realignment of Kirtland Air Force Base.
Scott said he sees the role of the commission as supporting local efforts to support their own installations.
“What will happen is the commission will receive the latest info on BRAC and begin to get an idea what kind of issues they need to address,” Scott said. “Each community has a community group that has taken on the role of supporting the military installations. Our focus is to work with those community groups and see what the state can do to complement or support their efforts.”
Scott said all four of New Mexico’s installations have major assets and he said New Mexico should be able to help Clovis officials make a case to keep Cannon open.
“Cannon has superior community support, great flying weather, it’s what the Air Force requires for a fighter wing installation,” Scott said. “ Cannon has the Melrose range, great airspace, and there is an initiative afoot that would even add to that, so Cannon has a lot of advantages.”