By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
For Gov. Bill Richardson, today’s Base Realignment and Closure hearing is symbolic of chance. It is the Clovis-Portales area’s chance — Richardson has been handed the task of giving closing arguments — to help save Cannon Air Force Base from closure, as recommended by the Department of Defense.
In a telephone interview Thursday morning, the governor said he is concerned with the “human effects” of losing Cannon, but his closing argument, about five minutes long, will be factual, logical, and methodic.
“I will stick to the facts,” said Richardson, who said he lobbied for the regional hearing — originally projected for Albuquerque — to be held on Clovis turf. The hearing, slated to begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Marshall Junior High School auditorium, is the pathway to keeping Cannon open.
“There is no more important issue for the governor of New Mexico right now. I have to look at the human effects — the economy of eastern New Mexico would be devastated (if Cannon closed). It would affect 5,000 jobs; it would have a huge impact on schools. …
“New Mexico has had a great military relationship with the Air Force — we are a military state; we have four bases. A big part of that military tradition would be lost. … (Today) is the most important day in the military history of New Mexico.”
Richardson, who was scheduled to arrive in Clovis on Thursday afternoon, said the key to getting Clovis off the BRAC list will be explaining how the military value of Cannon aligns with the priorities of the Air Force.
“Delegation members will focus on the issues — on where the Air Force was wrong. It’s mainly that in future air wars that America will be on the ground, in the mountains, in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the Middle East. Training at Clovis is totally unfettered. Open air space is key,” Richardson said, later reciting a list of Cannon assets repeatedly lauded by base backers — unencroached air space, the possibility of supersonic airspace, a nearby bombing range, and future training missions.
He said his testimony today will also highlight new possible missions for Cannon.
The past two months have been a busy one for the governor. He said he has had eight separate conversations with BRAC commissioners and has visited seven of the nine in their homes. The meetings have given Richardson a good idea of what the commissioners are looking for.
“Their advice is to focus on military value, the issues, facts and figures on Cannon, not just on emotion. I have found that they are very independent individuals with a superb staff. They are looking for cost figures and accurate data. If we make a good case … we will have a small chance to change their decision,” Richardson said.
Only 15 percent of bases targeted for closure have previously been spared in the BRAC process.
While today’s hearing is likely the Commission’s only chance to see eastern New Mexico before its recommendations go to President Bush by Sept. 8, officials said this is not the last chance for area residents to share their views with commissioners.
“This (the regional hearing) is not the end-all. It is an important element of an ever-evolving process,” BRAC Director of Communications James Schaefer said.
Schaefer said anyone with information that shows DoD research recommending Cannon’s closure is flawed should contact commissioners.