No other closure would have its economy hit harder

By Heather Wilson: PNT guest columnist

Editor’s note: During her June 3 visit to Clovis to discuss Cannon Air Force Base being on the Base Realignment and Closure list, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., made the following points about the situation, including what little data the Pentagon had released at the time that supported its decision to shut down Cannon. Since then the Pentagon has released more data, but still more is being demanded by members of Congress. Wilson’s remarks follow.

When I visited Clovis recently to meet with community leaders about Cannon Air Force Base I was impressed. Like the entire congressional delegation and the governor, the community is working together to keep Cannon open. We all know it is a steep hill to climb, but everyone is pitching in.
The Pentagon isn’t making it easy. Officials are required by the BRAC law to release all of the data and analysis used by the Pentagon to make its recommendations. But they haven’t. They have released their arguments to justify their decisions and some superficial descriptions of how they did their work.
It’s as if they served up a deep-dish apple pie called BRAC. Then they released information on how many people it will feed and how long it will keep in the fridge. But they still haven’t given us the list of ingredients or the recipe so that we can figure out where they went wrong and why this pie tastes like library paste. That’s the data we need.
When the members of the BRAC Commission come to Clovis later this month, there are some strong themes emerging.
First, the Pentagon did not consider the economic impact on the community as it should have done, and it will be substantial. One in five jobs in the Clovis area is related to the base.
No other community in the nation would have its economy hit harder by this BRAC list. The Pentagon says the closure of the submarine base at Groton, Conn., would result in a loss of 9.3 percent of the jobs in that community, and only 8.5 percent in Rapid City, S.D., if Ellsworth Air Force Base closes. But for Clovis, 20 percent of the jobs would be gone. The BRAC Commission must take that into account.
A second theme is drawn from the limited data we have. The Air Force made mistakes in assessing the military value of Cannon because some of the data it used was incorrect or outdated. For example, in one category, Cannon seems to have lost points because its range is 44 miles away. But it’s not. It’s only 20 miles away.
Finally, working together, the community will be able to make a strong case about capabilities the Pentagon failed to consider. The New Mexico Training Range Initiative will make Cannon an even better place to fly. The extension of the Clovis runway will give them an alternative airfield. And there is plenty of acreage to expand the base footprint at very low cost if they think they need it.
I opposed BRAC from the beginning and have always voted against it. I think it is the wrong way to do things at the wrong time. We will work together and do everything we can to keep Cannon open.

Heather Wilson represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Albuquerque. Contact her at 505-346-6781 or through her Web site:

http://wilson.house.gov/