Nevada wins commissioner’s promise to tour depot

By Felicia Fonseca: The Associated Press

Nevada’s political leaders got a welcome surprise on their trip to New Mexico: a commissioner’s commitment to visit the Army Ammunition Depot near Hawthorne.

Base Realignment and Closure Commissioner Philip Coyle told Gov. Kenny Guinn along with six others that he’d arrange for a visit to the threatened depot in mid-July.

“We haven’t been able to give (information) to them other than through this process,” Guinn said after BRAC’s regional hearing Friday morning in Clovis. “I felt there was real receptivity to the kinds of data they were getting and especially to the testimony of some of the individuals here.”

Mineral County Executive Director Shelley Hartmann broke down in tears as she testified to what she claimed was flawed data the Pentagon used to put the depot on a closure list.

The 147,230-acre depot is facing its first threat of closure. During the last round of base closures, Hawthorne lost 200 jobs, and Hartmann said the community of 3,500 has not recovered.

More than 530 jobs, mostly civilian, would be lost this round, Hartmann said. Pentagon data shows only 326 jobs would be lost — 199 direct and 127 indirect.

“Hawthorne becomes a ghost town, and that’s not acceptable,” Hartmann said. “We don’t mind losing the fight fair and square. But we do mind when the data is skewed.”
The Pentagon says the government would avoid duplication and save money by moving the depot’s storage and recycling functions to the Tooele Army Depot in Utah. For more than six decades the Hawthorne depot, 130 miles south of Reno, Nev., has manufactured, stored and shipped bombs and munitions.

Also at stake is the realignment of the 152nd Airlift Wing in Reno. The Nevada National Guard stands to lose its 10 C-130 planes to Little Rock, Ark., and 147 jobs. The 10 C-130s are the state’s first line of response against terrorism and natural disasters, said Guard Brig. Gen. Cindy Kirkland.

“I can’t begin to understand how the Department of Defense gave no consideration whatsoever to homeland defense and security when our national security policy establishes the security of our homeland as priority No. 1,” said Homeland Security Director Giles Vanderhoff.

The hearing was the first step in trying to save Hawthorne’s depot and the Nevada guard. Next on the list for Nevada is to prepare for the incoming commissioner.

“It wasn’t a home run,” said Nevada Sen. Mike McGinness. “But at least it was a standup double.”