Governor believes Cannon in ‘good shape’ for next BRAC

Kevin Wilson

Gov. Bill Richardson believes New Mexico always needs to be ready to defend itself for a Base Realignment and Closure round, but Cannon Air Force Base is in good shape.

Richardson visited Eastern New Mexico University on Thursday afternoon to award $125,000 to the college’s digital cinema arts program, but mixed in his resume of accomplishments and a warning of tough financial times ahead.

The outgoing governor, who made numerous “lame-duck” jokes at his expense, elaborated on some of his speech and answered other questions during a brief question-and-answer session with local media.

Regarding Cannon Air Force Base, he thought the transition to Air Force Special Operations Command will serve the base well when an inevitable BRAC round comes.

“There will be another BRAC round,” said Richardson, who took part in the state-wide effort to save Cannon from a 2005 closure recommendation. “I believe Cannon Air Force Base is really strong. It’s increasing jobs in the area, it’s going to have more functions, it’s growing. I would say the Air Force and the military will recommend it not be shut down. We have four bases in New Mexico, so we have to remain vigilant.”

He said vigilance has already been shown on the Ute Water Project, with the local entities demonstrating the willingness to move forward and the state has helped the supervising authority transition into a utility authority. Now, he said, it’s time for the federal government to step up for the project approved in 2009.

“It has to be a combination of state, federal cooperation,” Richardson said. “I think it will happen. When? Hopefully in the next few years. But this is a viable project. I believe it’s going to happen. It’s now up to the feds, I think. The state has stepped forward. We have a strong delegation, and I hope it will be sometime soon.”

Against the backdrop of the university, he said one idea he’s changed course on is the consolidation of university regent boards.

“When I first came into office, I thought that was good,” Richardson said. “But as I’ve served and as I’ve appointed regents … I worry that having one board of regents instead of locals who know the community will not be a good step.”