By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
Chad Lydick’s spring was characterized by a string of sleepless nights. As a member of the Washington Committee, a subgroup of the Committee of Fifty that supports Cannon Air Force Base, Lydick spent countless hours working to ensure the base would not be included on the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure list.
Despite Lydick’s efforts, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced Friday that Cannon was among two Air Force bases slated to be closed.
And so Lydick’s sleepless nights aren’t over. In fact, he said, his fight has just begun and he’s urging the rest of eastern New Mexico to join him.
“We have a great story to tell,” said Lydick, a long-time member of the Committee of Fifty and owner of a Clovis engineering firm.
Telling that story, Lydick said, now lies in the hands of the Committee of Fifty, its consultant, Piper Rudnick, congressional delegates, and the citizens of Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Using facts gathered from in-depth studies, Piper Rudnick is charged with convincing the BRAC Commission that Cannon does not belong on the closure list.
If Cannon is to survive, five of the nine-member Commission must vote to remove it from the proposed closure list. The Commission’s list is due to President Bush by Sept. 8
It is likely Piper Rudnick will draw upon assets Cannon supporters claim were largely overlooked by the DoD, such as a proposed expansion of supersonic air space that could be approved later this year.
“Right now, we have to stay positive. We have to stay focused (and) gather data,” said Randy Harris, a Clovis bank president and another Washington Committee member.
“The community can rally around us by making phone calls to the Pentagon; we can have rallies; we can have town hall meetings,” Harris said.
A town hall meeting led by Gov. Bill Richardson has already been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford is prepping the community for a visit from one or two BRAC commissioners, who must visit the communities whose bases are slated for closure.
At a press conference on Friday, Lansford drew smiles from those gathered at the library, envisioning throngs of Cannon supporters lining streets in a show of solidarity and support for Cannon.
“We have been in the process of getting prepared for Cannon being on the list. We’ve already planned and now it’s time for execution,” Lansford said.
Lee Malloy, with Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, mirrored the Committee of Fifty and Lansford’s resolve.
“Our role,” Malloy said, “is to be a cheerleader for Cannon. BRAC, in my mind, now stands for Bring Reason And Criteria as to why Cannon should stay open.”
The road to Cannon’s redemption, however, is long.
“It will take the rest of this year to complete the (BRAC) process,” Harris said.
Even if Cannon remains scheduled for closure after the October completion of the BRAC process, it would have up to six years to vacate the premises, according to Cannon Staff Sgt. Brandon Seals.
Fighting for survival
The stepping stones to Cannon’s survival:
1. The Committee of Fifty, using donated funds, hired international law firm Piper Rudnick. The firm will make a case for Cannon. Using facts gathered from in-depths studies, the firm will argue as to why Cannon does not belong on the list. It is likely they will draw upon assets overlooked by Rumsfeld, such as Cannon’s coming supersonic airspace and Cannon’s role in the community.
2. After Piper Rudnick will present its case for Cannon to the BRAC commissioner(s) who visit Cannon and Curry County.
3. The nine BRAC commissioners, combed from a pool of defense experts and retired military personnel, are next in line to review Rumsfeld’s list. It would take five votes of the nine-member federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission to take a base off the list. They must submit their list of recommended closures to the President by Sept. 8.
4. The list must be accepted or rejected by the President Bush in its entirety by Sept. 23.
5. The list passes on to Congress, who also must accept or reject the list within 45 legislative days.