New Mexico makes case for bases

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Randy Harris, a Clovis banker and member of the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission, said he’s optimistic New Mexico won’t lose any of its four bases in an upcoming process of military cost-cutting.
In fact, Harris said he hopes the state will gain from the federal process known as Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.
Reached by phone on Wednesday while meeting government officials in Washington along with other members of the commission, Harris said New Mexico has much to offer the military.
“New Mexico has for years done the things necessary to take care of and support men and women, families and children of the military,” Harris said. “The commission’s efforts have been to convey the message that New Mexico is a great place, as this BRAC process goes forward, to bring new missions, planes, bases, men and women.”
“New Mexico has set the stage and set the environment for growth, not for closure, and that has come about from years and years of work in all the communities that have military installations,” Harris said.
Many military installations in more populated areas have major problems with growing cities that surround bases and impede military operations through residential and commercial encroachment. Harris said New Mexico’s vast open spaces, low population density, and low cost of living are reasons the military may want to expand its base operations.
“There are no encroachment issues in New Mexico because the state has worked very hard to ensure that New Mexico military installations grow and are not hindered by building in their communities,” Harris said. “The commission has explored all the elements of our military installations and we found no weaknesses. What we found was a tremendous environment and that the state is moving forward to enhance that environment in airspace, in education, in infrastructure surrounding the bases.
“There is no state that has the asset of being as cost-effective to run military operations as the state of New Mexico. We have joint operations, we have coalition forces that are second to none. If there were ever a state that has built the foundation to take care of the military for the next 20 years in regard to ranges, airspace, community support as well as state support, New Mexico has done that.”
The New Mexico delegation met this week with top Pentagon deputies to try to show why its bases remain vital. The delegation also met with members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to discuss strategy.
Pentagon officials made no promises, but indicated the state’s active strategy for preventing closures is sound, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said.
‘‘They told us it was certainly the right approach,’’ she said.
Rep. Heather Wilson, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said she encouraged Denish to identify military operations in other states that might do better in New Mexico.
‘‘New Mexico should be identifying missions and jobs that should come to our state when bases in other states close,’’ Wilson, R-N.M., said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.