BRAC: Be optimistic, but prepared

By Jim Lee

I planned on writing about car battery recycling this week, as sort of a follow-up to last week’s bit about my car battery’s demise, but recent events have me thinking about Air Force base recycling instead.
I wonder why.
We may view the situation with denial, determination, or despair, but we have to deal with it. We have to deal with it now. We must realize we can implement damage control, possibly turn a crisis into a gift. To do this we need sound, responsible planning. This is not an option. This is a requirement.
Unlike flash floods, tornados, prairie fires, and drought, we have advance warning. We have time to prepare. If we compare our situation to the tsunami victims in Asia, hurricane victims in Florida, or the devastation of tornados ripping through Oklahoma, we have blessings beyond counting, my friends.
An Air Force spokesperson says Cannon Air Force Base could close by 2011. A Department of Defense spokesperson says the pull-out should be as sudden as possible. I don’t know who’s right, but I do know we have some warning. So instead of crying the blues, let’s come up with some workable plans.
The first step is assessing the problem: saving the base or losing the base. The basic situation is saving the base or dealing with its loss. This brings up Reality Check One: If we put all our energy and resources into trying to hang onto Cannon Air Force Base, what happens if we don’t succeed and are caught unprepared?
Certainly, we all need to do what we can to keep CAFB, and we must support our elected officials as they spearhead this effort. But we also need to have realistic plans for compensating for the loss. These plans do not mean we have to give up the fight to keep the base. These plans do mean we must be prepared to lose the base. Continue fighting to keep it here, but bear in mind Reality Check Two: Regardless of the impassioned rhetoric by well-meaning people, the odds are against saving Cannon.
Yes, we can point out the effect on the local economy to those nine BRAC Commission members and hope for majority agreement in our favor. We can brag about how we have welcomed the military as community members and how they have established themselves. We can point out that the base has been here since World War II. We can add item after item showing why pulling out is unfair and so devastating to our citizens and local commerce.
But who will listen? The federal government doesn’t care what the closure will do to this area. The federal government cares about the federal government. The bureaucrats care about self-perpetuation. This means directing government “pork” to the areas with the most votes likely to go to those in power. So Kirtland AFB gets bigger while Cannon AFB bites the dust. We don’t want to believe that, but what else makes sense?
The base could go any time in the future if we save it now anyway. Why live in such insecurity if we don’t have to? If we really zero in on development, we will gain whether the base closes or not. To guarantee this our affected communities need to unify and come up with projects never considered before.
So send me your ideas. The more the merrier. Let’s put our heads together and come up with that blessing in disguise so we can publish some of them right here next week. There’s more than one way to win.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: