BRAC presenters stellar, but poker hand’s still building

Freedom Newspapers

Elation ruled the day after Friday morning’s hearing at Marshall Junior High School before six members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. But those involved in the efforts to get Cannon Air Force Base off the closure list know the hard work will continue for at least two more months.

Step 1, the hearing presentation, was an unqualified success. Nine community and political leaders outlined where bad data from the Air Force led to a grossly understated military value score for Cannon and severely downplayed the economic and social problems that closure would bring. They painted a picture for the BRAC commissioners that at least one staffer said was easily the best community presentation to date.

Anyone who saw it, in person or on TV, would likely agree. Normally when many people speak on a single subject, at least one speech is unfocused or lost in empty rhetoric that lacks facts. In fact, later Friday morning, that happened during other states’ — Nevada and Arizona were there — presentations that were lacking in continuity and, in one speaker’s case, was overcome by tears.

That wasn’t so for New Mexico’s Cannon supporters, or the White Sands Missile Range or Holloman AFB backers, where the impacts are far less. The discussions and graphics were fact-filled and to the point. Passion and emotion was evident, but those qualities were muted and thus added to the statements made.

In the coming weeks and months, this strategy of presenting facts and raising questions will resurface many times in Washington, D.C., from all the states and communities affected negatively by the BRAC list. After all, this nationwide debate is really a poker game and the pot of gold they’re playing for is immense: Win the votes of five of the nine BRAC commissioners and get off the list.

What the 16 regional BRAC hearings, of which Clovis’ is about midway on the schedule, are about is laying the first cards on the table. They are counter to those the Department of Defense played May 13. We may not know the winning hands until Sept. 8 when the Commission’s closure recommendations must be sent to President George W. Bush.

Step 2, the follow-up visits and calls, will reveal the rest of the cards all parties hold, and the strategies of Cannon backers for countering the plays of Cannon’s foes. A winning poker hand isn’t turned over all at once. The best hands include a complex strategy that thwarts the strategies of the other players.

And when you sit at the national poker table, your strategy has to be sound.

At Friday’s hearing, we saw that it was. The Keep Cannon team included Committee of Fifty members Randy Harris and Chad Lydick, who spoke on flaws in the Department of Defense and the Air Force’s military value and economic impact data. Retired Air Force general and Albuquerque resident Hanson Scott spoke on military force structure. They were supported by New Mexico’s political leaders, U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, Gov. Bill Richardson, along with U.S. Reps. Tom Udall and Heather Wilson, and a letter from Steve Pearce read by one of his staff.

Harris gave the best public speech of his life, as did Lydick. Domenici and Richardson showed their seasoned reasoning. And Wilson, a former Air Force captain and an Air Force Academy graduate, continued to impress listeners with her ability to explain military data shortcomings.

All deserve our thanks as they begin Step 2. And you can support them by continuing to send letters to the BRAC commissioners and their staff, explaining why Cannon Air Force Base is good for national defense and good for the Clovis and Portales regions. Please sign your letters or e-mails, unlike most of those who oppose keeping the base open. Let the decision-makers see that most obvious difference.

Here’s how to contact BRAC commissioners:
By letter: BRAC Commission, 2521 S. Clark St., Suite 600 Arlington, Va. 22202

By e-mail: Through the Commission Web site at www.brac.gov

By phone: (703) 699-2950