Dignitaries flooding into Clovis

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

While Bill Richardson is usually the center of attention when he visits eastern New Mexico, the state’s governor will be just another face in the crowd of well-known dignitaries at Friday’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission hearing at Clovis’ Marshall Junior High.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn are also scheduled to be on hand, along with numerous state lawmakers from New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, hearing organizers said.

Reports that Arizona Sen. John McCain will also be on hand could not be confirmed on Tuesday.

BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony Principi is scheduled to tour Cannon Air Force Base along with other commissioners on Thursday, though Principi is not expected to stay for the regional BRAC hearing, which is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

At least six BRAC commissioners are expected to hear testimony related to military base closings, with a series of public officials receiving a chance to discuss the impact of BRAC on their communities and states.

Five of the nine BRAC commissioners must be persuaded before changes can be made to the Department of Defense’s recommended closure list.

“The hearing will give the entire Clovis community a chance to make an impression on the BRAC Commission,” said New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, on the witness list slated to speak in favor of removing Cannon Air Force Base from the targeted bases.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is also slated to speak on behalf of Cannon supporters.

“We have found serious flaws in the Pentagon’s argument for putting Cannon on the closure list,” Bingaman said. “Friday’s hearing will provide us with the opportunity to expose those flaws and to underscore the main reasons Cannon is and should remain an asset to our country.”

Others scheduled to speak for Cannon include Ret. Brig. Gen. Hanson Scott, director of the New Mexico Base Planning Commission, Gov. Richardson, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., along with Clovis residents and longtime Cannon supporters Randy Harris and Chad Lydick.

BRAC commissioners are also scheduled to hear arguments from former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers — he will speak on behalf of White Sands Missile Range supporters — Gov. Guinn, Gov. Napolitano and other lawmakers and dignitaries as they present information related to military installations in their regions.

Harris said Tuesday that he’d heard Arizona’s McCain was planning to be in Clovis on Friday, but Harris would not say where he obtained that information. Officials with McCain’s office in Phoenix said they did not know the Republican senator’s schedule for the end of this week and directed questions to his Washington office. McCain’s staff in Washington did not return telephone calls or e-mails by late Tuesday.

BRAC regional hearing schedule:
• 8:30 a.m. — Hearing begins: posting of the colors, national anthem, prayer
• 8:50 a.m. — Clovis/Cannon Air Force Base presentation
• 10:20 a.m. — Break
• 10:35 a.m. — White Sands presentation
• 11:05 a.m. — Alamogordo presentation
• 11:15 a.m. — Break, New Mexico delegation press conference in cafeteria, governor to rally in football field
• 11:45 a.m. —Arizona presentation
• 12:15 p.m. — Nevada presentation
• 12:45 p.m. — Hearing adjourns, BRAC commissioners and staff press conference in cafeteria, lunch
• 1:45 p.m. — BRAC commissioners and staff depart Marshall