By Darrell Todd Maurina
Clovis banker Randy Harris said he’s optimistic going into today’s meeting of the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission, a group established by the New Mexico Economic Development Department to help keep the state’s military installations open.
Items on the published agenda for the 2 p.m. meeting in Albuquerque include the Department of Defense’s draft selection criteria for closing and realigning military installations in the United States.
Those criteria will be used to determine which, if any, bases should be closed and combined, and are subject to a 30-day public comment period before the Secretary of Defense proposes a final set of criteria to Congress on Feb. 16. If approved by Congress on or before March 16, the criteria will be used to propose a list of base closures and realignments that will go before Congress and the president in late 2005.
“The criteria seem to talk about all of the strengths that Cannon Air Force Base has, as well as many of our other installations in New Mexico,” Harris said. “I’ve gone down all six of them and it looks like New Mexico has done a very good job for many, many years in meeting the needs of the military and it is now paying dividends.”
Commission member Marshall Stinnett of Portales said he shared Harris’ optimism.
“When they close a base they have to put the mission someplace and that could be Cannon,” Stinnett said. “Cannon has the housing, Cannon has the runways, Cannon has the tarmac, Cannon has the airspace to accommodate other missions.”
Stinnett said Cannon has a strong impact not only on Clovis but also Portales.
“We have 150 Air Force housing units down here,” Stinnett said. “If we have any economic expansion in the Clovis area it helps other communities. Just as with the cheese plant, it will help our community as well.”
When interviewed in late December, commission director Hanson Scott said he didn’t know how commission members would respond to the Pentagon’s proposed criteria.
“We’re going to assess the criteria; we certainly haven’t decided if we are going to request any changes,” Scott said. “I don’t know what the other community reps will say. The criteria are a draft and the criteria are open to review before final approval.”
E.O. “Doc” Stewart of Clovis is also a local member of the commission, but Stewart said he would not be attending due to his wife’s recent surgery.