Firm will decide if Cannon in danger

By Darrell Todd Maurina

PORTALES — State officials learned Friday that their team of hired consultants will tour New Mexico’s military bases this week to determine which ones may be in danger of closure.

At Friday afternoon’s meeting of the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission in Portales, representatives of the Whitney, Bradley & Brown defense consulting firm explained how they will evaluate each of New Mexico’s four military bases. The team will come to Cannon this Friday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Carl Franklin said his consulting firm has a solid track record of helping communities determine how the federal Base Realignment and Closure commission will view their bases, and warned that strategies which kept bases open in past years may not work this time.

“This is not your grandfather’s BRAC,” Franklin said. “(Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld’s focus is on warfighting and getting the most bang for the buck. It has been said there is 25 percent excess capacity, and we believe Mr. Rumsfeld will find that excess capacity.

“It remains to be seen whether that will be primarily realignments or closures, but we believe there will definitely be closures.”

Consulting firm representative Vickie Plunkett said it will be critical to explain each base’s strengths to the BRAC committee members.

“What we bring to you is a current knowledge of the Department of Defense environment and where they are going in the future,” Plunkett said.

Brig. Gen. Annette Sobel of the New Mexico National Guard asked how the consultants knew their criteria will match with those being used by the federal BRAC organizers.

“We were told by some of the consultants who have helped Secretary Rumsfeld from the beginning that when he saw our criteria (being used in a Florida evaluation), it was so close to their criteria that they were ready to start an investigation of who leaked their stuff,” Plunkett said.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who serves as chairwoman of the state’s base planning commission, said she was pleased by the commission’s progress so far.

“On our commission we have a wealth of experience in people who understand the realignment process and also the military mindset,” Denish said. “The director and various commission members have made trips to Washington, D.C., and I think the commission has done a wonderful job evaluating where we are regarding possible base closures.”

The state committee will next meet in mid-August, tentatively scheduled for Santa Fe.