Senator wants former governor on BRAC commission

Staff and wire reports

ALBUQUERQUE — Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., plans to push for a “fair and adequate evaluation” of New Mexico’s military bases as the nation heads into another round of base realignments and closures.

Domenici said during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that he wants “objective findings regarding the validity of the bases.”

Domenici has recommended former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers to serve on the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Carruthers is dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Business Administration and Economics.

“Senator Domenici is recommending an individual who is very knowledgeable about the state of New Mexico, about military installations and operations and I think (he) would be a good selection,” said Clovis banker Randy Harris, a member of the Washington Committee to the Committee of 50, a local group that supports Cannon Air Force Base.

But even if Carruthers is appointed to the commission, that doesn’t necessarily give New Mexico bases any advantage during BRAC, Harris said.

“Some people may read it into that; I don’t see it that way,” he said. “I do think it’s good that there be a variety of people (on the commission) from all over the United States.”

President Bush must appoint the commission members and submit their names to the Senate by March 15.

The commission will make recommendations to the president by Sept. 8 on which bases should be closed.

The nine-member commission will be looking for facilities that have multiple purposes, Domenici said.

Many improvements have been made over the last five years to New Mexico’s bases, and they also are looking to expand their work, he said.

Cannon is seeking to expand its airspace for training, for example.

If approved this fall, the airspace expansion would make Cannon’s already “premium” airspace even better, Harris said.

Besides airspace, Cannon bodes well under several categories the BRAC commission would scrutinize, such as encroachment and cost efficiency, Harris said.

“Melrose Bombing Range, for example, is within 25 miles of the base. You don’t have many bases that close to their airspace and their bombing range. It’s a tremendous cost-efficient way of operation,” Harris said.

Furthermore, the rural area beneath the airspace is one of the least populated in the country, which keeps encroachment problems to a minimum, he said.

New Mexico is also home to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, Holloman Air Force Base west of Alamogordo and the Army’s White Sands Missile Range between Alamogordo and Las Cruces.

Defense Department base closing: http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/