By David Irvin: Freedom Newspapers
Congresswoman Heather Wilson is concerned about the guarded nature of the Pentagon in regard to releasing certain data to communities affected by Base Realignment and Closure act.
She believes it is hamstringing eastern New Mexico’s effort to get Cannon Air Force Base removed from the closure list.
“The data they’ve returned is not the data we need,” said Wilson, R-N.M., addressing media agencies and community members Friday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
The data released show the Pentagon’s justification for closing the base, she said, but doesn’t include the initial data used to calculate the Pentagon’s assessment of military value.
Cannon is one of two Air Force bases recommended for closure by the Pentagon. The base’s annual economic impact on Curry and Roosevelt counties is an estimated $202 million and several thousand jobs.
“I think it’s been very short sighted since the beginning,” Wilson said, explaining that she opposed this BRAC round since it was conceived. She added the process probably isn’t immune to Pentagon and Air Force politics.
Still, she remained optimistic.
“It’s an uphill fight,” she said, but not impossible.
Randy Harris, a member of the Committee of Fifty, discussed the strategy going forward as long as the Pentagon doesn’t release its full reasoning for placing Cannon on the closure list.
“Our message is going to be that the Department of Defense is implementing an action that (will cause) unrecoverable economic impact on this area,” he said.
He also said comparing Cannon to other installations that did not get listed for closure — such as Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix — and demonstrably showing that bigger isn’t necessarily better, will be important to keeping Cannon open.
He said the procedures pilots must go through to get to the training range at Luke is much more difficult that at Cannon, where F-16s can lift off, perform their training maneuvers, and return to base in just 24 minutes.
Located in Glendale, Ariz., Luke Air Force Base is home to the 56th Fighter Wing, the largest fighter wing in the United States Air Force.
Beverlee McClure, president of Clovis Community College, is handling all the arrangements for the June 24 regional hearing in Clovis, when community leaders will have a chance to present their case to the BRAC commissioners. Three commissioners are expected to come to Clovis for the hearing and to visit Cannon, among them the chair of the commission, Anthony Principi.
She said there are a lot of protocols that need to be followed in putting this kind of a meeting together, and made it clear there will be no audience participation at the hearing.