By David Irvin
By all accounts, supporters of Cannon Air Force Base on Friday made a compelling argument to spare the facility from closure.
Keep arguing is the advice of Clovis’ Walter Bradley, who was New Mexico’s lieutenant governor when Kirtland Air Force Base was removed from the Base Realignment and Closure list in 1995.
In the case of Kirtland, it was the long-haul, sustained effort that eventually saved the base, Bradley said. “The lobbying kept going all the way to the end, until we knew our base was off the list,” Bradley said.
BRAC commissioners have until Sept. 8 — 75 days — before they must present their recommendations to President Bush.
They have emphasized repeatedly they will continue accepting relevant data until the decisions are made.
“This is not the end of the road in terms of the opportunities to speak with and share facts with the commissioners,” Commission spokesman Jim Schaefer said.
Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., vowed New Mexico’s delegates will “keep the pressure on all the way.”
Cannon supporters will be looking deeper in the coming weeks and months into data that shows the Pentagon’s cost analysis and justification for placing Cannon on the closure list. That effort will consume a huge amount of time and energy, officials said, but could be crucial to the effort.
“It will be an ongoing effort until we are off the list,” said Randy Harris of the Cannon support group Committee of Fifty.
“There’s just an inordinate amount of data, and I’m not sure all of it has been released or is available to us. We have a team of people that is focused on that, that is doing a really good job.”
Bradley said the letter-writing campaign to keep Cannon should continue unabated. Thousands of letters have poured into the BRAC Commission’s office already, a fact recognized by Commissioner James Hansen on Friday as he opened the hearing.
Bradley suggests that area residents start writing letters also to President Bush, who will have the final say on Cannon.
“Don’t get apathetic right now,” Bradley said. “Don’t feel like we are done. This is far from being done.”
BRAC staff said commissioners will not make their decision until mid-August at the earliest. Commissioners are scheduled to attend regional hearings at nine more sites before concluding that process July 14 in Los Angeles.