State reps going over released documents

The Associated Press

Military aides for New Mexico’s U.S. senators and Rep. Tom Udall were analyzing information released Tuesday by the Pentagon to back up its recommendations to close military installations across the nation, including Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis.

Glen Loveland, spokesman for Udall, D-N.M., said he didn’t expect comments on the documents Tuesday. Congress is in recess until June 6.

Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., were among lawmakers who urged President Bush to make sure information was released associated with the base closure list.

Lawmakers hope to use analyses to persuade the independent commission reviewing the closings to remove certain installations from the hit list.

The state is fighting the decision to close Cannon, and more than $800,000 has been pledged to the battle.

Randy Harris of Clovis’ Committee of Fifty said Cannon supporters had not had an opportunity to look at the newly released material in detail and weren’t sure the documents they have represent everything there is.

Officials in areas affected by the Pentagon’s decisions have been uneasy about how much they’ll get to see. Parts of the report are classified, and the Pentagon said lawmakers and staff with security clearances who want to see the classified information must review it at a secure location in northern Virginia.

New Mexico’s congressional delegation has expressed frustration that the Pentagon’s decision did not take into account the fact the Air Force has been working to expand the training range around Cannon, home to four F-16 fighter squadrons.

The Pentagon has estimated it would save $2.7 billion over 20 years by closing Cannon, costing the base’s 2,385 military employees and 384 civilian jobs and about 2,000 more indirect jobs. The economic impact of the base has been estimated at $200 million a year — about a third of the local economy.

The release of the list May 13 is only the first step in the process.

The nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission appointed by President Bush will analyze the list and hold hearings before turning in a final report to the president by Sept. 8. The president may accept the entire list or refuse it. It must then go to Congress.

The commission can remove a base from the list with five votes.

Some commissioners will attend a June 24 hearing at Clovis.