By David Irvin: Freedom Newspapers
Eastern New Mexico residents will have the opportunity to square off face-to-face with Base Realignment and Closure commissioners in June.
On June 24, between one and three commissioners are scheduled to visit Clovis for a regional hearing, according to officials at the commission. The meeting is slated for 8:30 a.m., but the location is still tentative, according to officials at the BRAC Commission office.
The meeting is designed to gather input from the Clovis-Portales area community. The commissioners may visit Cannon during the trip, but a mandatory visit to the base could happen at another time, officials said.
“The hearings are a chance for the communities to state their cases,” said Robert McCreary, deputy director of communications for the commission. “This information needs to be factual (in nature).”
Cannon was one of two domestic Air Force bases recommended for closure on a list released May 13 by the Department of Defense.
Area community leaders vowed a fierce fight in the coming months to remove the base from the list.
Appointed by President Bush, the nine-member BRAC Commission can change the Pentagon list — it takes five votes to get off the list — before it is submitted to the White House and Congress in the fall.
In a joint press release, New Mexico’s congressional delegates expressed their excitement about the regional hearing.
Gov. Bill Richardson will attend the meeting, officials at his office said.
“I am extremely pleased that the BRAC Commission will be coming to Clovis for a hearing so they can see firsthand the level of community support to keep Cannon open,” Richardson said.
He said he will tell the Commission how important Cannon is to national defense and to the state.
Terry Moberly, who chairs the Committee of Fifty, a Clovis-area volunteer group that has supported Cannon for decades, said it is premature to say exactly what the community response will be at the hearing, but the city will “make its case.”
“We’re going to press the issues that we’ve talked about forever,” he said, referring to Cannon’s expansive overland training range. “Exactly what is going to be said, and how it is going to be said, is a work in process.”
Sen. Domenici, R-N.M., called the meeting a “golden opportunity” for the people of New Mexico to come out and make their voices heard about the BRAC list.
“I strongly believe that Cannon receives some of the best community support of any base in the country, so we’re definitely relying on their help to work as a team to save the base,” he said.
According to McCreary, it is important the community come to the meeting prepared, and with hard facts. He said the commission will be operating under strict guidelines, with analysts working toward compiling the best information possible on each location.
Between June 7 and July 14, commissioners will hold hearings in 16 cities across the country.
“The regional hearings will provide the primary means for communities to educate the commissioners and their staff on their disagreements with the DoD base recommendations,” said former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, chairman of the commission.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.