New Mexico military bases, including Cannon Air Force Base, received the support of the state’s top boss on Wednesday to develop projects that would help keep the bases thriving.
Lawmakers from across the state and local leaders also pitched their support for plans to improve roads and projects at the Clovis base.
The support couldn’t come at a better time. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s process at determining which bases could potentially be closed or realigned has sent chills across the state.
The U.S. Department of Defense has announced plans to cut as much as 25 percent of the existing base capacity in the next round, which begins in May 2005.
“We need that air force base in Clovis,” said Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, whose district includes Roosevelt County. “It would devastate Clovis for a few years if they were to lose the base. It would take them a while to recover.”
No one in the area seems to want to even consider the idea of losing Cannon.
“We want to make sure that we can do everything we can to preserve our bases,” said Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega. “Cannon is 11 miles north of Portales and it’s a real positive impact for Portales and Clovis.”
Gov. Bill Richardson put his support behind legislation that would provide funding for several areas involving Cannon.
The bill is also being backed by Rep. Jose Campos, D-Clovis.
Through the legislation, an overpass leading to Cannon would be upgraded, as would Highway 60/84, which leads to the Clovis-area base.
Richardson’s office said there are more than $30 million of capital improvements for base-area schools already under way.
The legislation includes a compensating tax deduction for articles brought to New Mexico for research, development, testing and evaluation, as well as $400,000 to support the Office of Military Base Planning and Support and the Military Base Planning Commission.
The bill also moves the Office of Military Base Planning into the Governor’s Office, under Homeland Security Advisor Brig. Gen. Sobel.
Half of the $400,000 would be used to evaluate each military facility against criteria published by the Department of Defense for the next round of BRAC hearings.
Chad Lydick, a Clovis resident who serves on a statewide committee aimed at keeping bases, said Clovis has been taking care of its base for years.
“One advantage we have over a lot of communities that are just starting to take care of their bases is that Clovis has been taking care of ours for 50 years,” he said. “We have always taken an active role in taking care of the needs of Cannon. Things that we knew would be important we took care of.
“Cannon is not only a vital part of our community, but it’s part of our national defense. We need to keep both of those things in mind.”
Clovis Mayor David Lansford said he was assured the governor was behind keeping bases in New Mexico.
“I know the governor wants to do all he can to ensure all military bases remain operational and get through the BRAC process,” he said. “The governor is supportive of what we are trying to do here in eastern New Mexico.”
Lydick said he wasn’t surprised Richardson supports funding for bases.
“I totally expected the governor’s support,” he said. “When he was in Congress he was always supportive of Cannon. When he came back as the governor here he knew the importance of bases in New Mexico.”
Roberts said bases make sense for a state like New Mexico.
“We need to really push to keep bases open,” she said. “We have a lot of air space and a lot of land. Because of those two things it’s only reasonable that we leave bases in New Mexico.”