By Marlena Hartz
Randy Harris recalls being on the steps of the Pentagon, the morning sun on the horizon, as the secretary of the Air Force drove up. Asked what he was doing there, Harris replied: “This is what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years.”
As a member of the Washington Committee, a subgroup of the Cannon Air Force Base support group called the Committee of Fifty, the president of the Bank of Clovis is part of a long-standing tradition dating back to 1948. That’s when a handful of area businessmen went to Washington where they successfully lobbied for the re-opening of the former Clovis Army Air Field.
The committee — which also includes District Judge Ted Hartley and engineer Chad Lydick — visits Washington several times a year now in an effort to keep open lines of communication with Congress and the Pentagon.
But news out of Washington has been surprisingly quiet lately, Harris said, as the nation prepares for the Department of Defense’s release of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list, due out Friday morning.
The three-man Washington Committee is battling butterflies these days, worried by tight-lipped officials, but remains optimistic that its hard work will keep Cannon off the BRAC list.
Since hiring a consultant firm, Piper Rudnick, to monitor and relay information about the BRAC process to New Mexico lawmakers, members of the Washington Committee said they still remain, for the most part, in the dark.
“We have learned that there are many different scenarios that have been presented by the different armed services groups — we don’t know which one of those or what those scenarios are or what the results of those scenarios are. It (Cannon) could be on the possible list to close, or it could not be on the possible list to close,” Harris said.
For now, committee members are comforted by the reputation they say Cannon has as a top-notch military installation and the liaison progress they have made in the past, securing land for Cannon growth and ensuring it stays abreast of new technological developments.
“Our goal is to know leadership at different levels and try to bring all those people together to understand what the needs are of the men and women of the Cannon Air Force Base … to tell the story of the Cannon Air Force Base,” said Harris, who said he is confident Cannon’s unencroached air space and room for expansion will spare it from the BRAC list.
Chad Lydick, the owner of an engineering and surveying company in Clovis, echoed Harris’ assessment of the importance of the Washington Committee, a volunteer group comprised of civilians.
“The key has been to focus on leadership of the Air Force,” said Lydick who travels to Washington about once or twice a year to meet with Pentagon officials. “It’s not like a new community that goes up there (to Washington) and says ‘Hey something’s about to happen to us.’ They say ‘Look at Clovis, they’ve been here in good times and in bad times.’
“I guarantee when we go up there we don’t stand in the hallways.”
According to the Washington Committee, this year’s BRAC has been especially troubling because key Air Force offices — the undersecretary and secretary — are vacant. In addition, the committee fears Cannon may be vulnerable because it is a single-mission base, although it has the capacity to host an additional force.
Although the members view the likelihood of Cannon being on the BRAC list and closing as marginal, they are still preparing for the worst.