Longtime Portales businessman Marshall Stinnett said the Base Realignment and Closure process needs to concern Portales leaders, not just those in Clovis who are closer to Cannon Air Force Base.
“We have 150 Air Force housing units down here,” Stinnett said. “If we have any economic expansion in the Clovis area it helps other communities. Just as with the cheese plant, it will help our community as well.”
That’s part of why he serves on the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission, a group established by the New Mexico Economic Development Department to help keep the state’s military installations open.
Stinnett said BRAC isn’t necessarily all doom and gloom — in fact, it could provide significant help to Cannon and the surrounding communities.
“When they close a base they have to put the mission someplace and that could be Cannon,” Stinnett said. “Cannon has the housing, Cannon has the runways, Cannon has the tarmac, Cannon has the airspace to accommodate other missions.”
After Tuesday’s meeting of the commission, Stinnett said he was reasonably confident about Cannon’s chances of survival, but also said the commission may need to spend considerably more money than it has budgeted to convince the Department of Defense not to close any of New Mexico’s four bases.
“The governor has agreed to $400,000 but I think we’re going to have to convince him and the legislature that we need quite a bit more than that,” Stinnett said. “I think Arizona is putting up $3.2 million.”
Stinnett said other commission members, including a retired three-star general, proposed spending up to $10 million.
“If you look at the jobs created by these bases, that money would be a drop in the bucket compared to the harm if we lost one of them,” Stinnett said.
That money would go to hire consultants who do their own independent analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of different installations. In the last BRAC round in 1995, the independent federal commission charged with listing bases to be realigned or closed targeted Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque. Kirtland was spared, but only due to extensive lobbying by New Mexico officials who persuaded the commission that Kirtland should remain open. Stinnett said New Mexico officials need to be prepared to do the same thing this time.
“If you get on the BRAC list the only way you get off it is you nominate somebody who’s worse than you are,” Stinnett said. “You’ve got to be able to come up with a base that doesn’t meet the criteria as well as you do.”
Hanson Scott, a retired Air Force brigadier general who serves as director of the state’s military base planning commission, said he was pleased by the meeting’s results and its responses to a list of Pentagon-drafted criteria for the BRAC process.
“I would say this is serious business we are about and I would say the commission understands we need to be serious,” Scott said. “The subcommittees will probably get together now and decide just how to respond to the criteria.”
Scott said the next meeting will be March 17 or 18 in Alamogordo. In the meantime, a subcommittee headed up by Clovis banker Randy Harris will review the BRAC criteria and prepare any response that may be needed.
Harris was still in transit from Albuquerque Tuesday evening and could not be reached for comment.