Miguel Navrot / Albuquerque Journal – 2005-03-07 07:34:16
(March 2, 2005) — A local peace activist, in light of the Pentagon’s plans for closing bases this year, is asking the government to shut military properties in New Mexico.
Bob Anderson, a former congressional hopeful and adjunct university professor in Albuquerque, is urging like-minded peace activists to make known their displeasure with local military bases.
One of Anderson’s prime targets is Kirtland Air Force Base, which had been selected for downsizing more a decade ago.
Kirtland, which avoided the proposed downsizing, has a major impact on Albuquerque’s economy.
“There are other possibilities and alternatives to economic development in our area,” Anderson said in an interview. “We don’t have to be solely dependent on the war industries for the economy here.”
To get his word out, Anderson has relied mostly on grassroots efforts. A flier he said he has distributed for a couple weeks urges people to contact the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking that local bases be shuttered.
Anderson suggests the money that would be earmarked for defense spending be used instead for education and health care.
An official Pentagon list of bases to be closed is expected in May. The Defense Department last closed some of its properties deemed surplus in 1995. Since then, civic leaders and elected officials throughout New Mexico have worked to bolster the case to keep local bases open and running. Gov. Bill Richardson, since his election, has dedicated an office of state government to keeping military operations in New Mexico. The state is home to three Air Force bases and White Sands Missile Range, the nation’s largest overland testing area.
“Many of us feel that New Mexico is being colonized by what we call the military-industrial complex,” said Anderson, who ran for the 1st Congressional District seat in 1998.
“The thing is, we’ve got a very abnormal economy. It’s very one-sided, out of the norm,” he said.
Most base advocates argue defense dollars are a vital boost to local economies around the nation. Military spending in New Mexico had an estimated economic impact of about $3.9 billion in 2003. Anderson’s close-our-base campaign runs counter to efforts by New Mexico’s state and national officials.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Hanson Scott, who heads the state Military Base Planning Commission office, said closing bases in New Mexico wouldn’t be prudent for the government.
“It’s an optimum place for the military,” Scott said.
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