Chamber visits D.C. in support of WSMR

May 11th, 2015

Annual trip opens lines of communication in the Capitol

The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce’s annual visit to our nation’s Capitol was a success. Here’s a brief recap of our visits: The team discussed small business policy, homeland security and immigration with subject matter experts at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This group does a fly-in program that allows Ben Woods of New Mexico State University, Richard Haas of Steve Newby Architects & Associates Inc. and Bill Connor El Paso Electric Co. took part in the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce annual trip to Washington, D.C., during which they met with U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce, center.member visitors to select relevant topics on which to be briefed.

As far as the Department of Defense goes, the majority of the meetings took place at the Pentagon. The history chronicled on the walls of the building is tremendous. Just walking between meetings in the halls allows you to learn more about the military. There were eight separate meetings, including lunch with former White Sands Missile Range commander Brig. Gen. John Ferrari. It is great to be able to stay in touch with someone at the Army staff level who personally knows the capabilities of WSMR.

By the way, Ferrari received his second
star later in the week while we were in town and has now risen to the rank of major general.

In all, we were able to speak with senior people representing all three service branches – Army, Navy and Air Force – as well as from the Office of Economic Adjustment and the DoD itself.

We discussed topics ranging from how the budget, or lack thereof, impacts projects, both current and future; the impending move of the 2nd Engineer Battalion; the SunZia transmission line; the Navy’s new rail gun project and its pivot to the Pacific; the Joint Land Use Study; and the ROTC program.

The bottom line is that with reduced funding for the DoD, everyone is scrambling for dollars. By and large, the group was commended for making the trip to Washington, D.C., to speak on behalf of WSMR and we were told again this year that the effort does not go unnoticed.

On the federal side, we met with both of our U.S. senators, Tom Udall and
Martin Heinrich; and all three of our U.S. Congress representatives, Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham; as well as with Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who covers El Paso and Fort Bliss.

The predominant sentiment was the desire to avoid a second round of sequestration, which truly crippled WSMR in 2013. That can only be accomplished by a true bipartisan effort between the “fiscal hawks” and the “budget hawks” later this summer. That same message was communicated to us by the U.S. Chamber.

The importance of this trip can be underscored by the fact that a newly released economic study on the impact of WSMR shows there is a $3.17 million a day impact on employment and a $4.7 million a day impact on spending on our local economy.

It’s quite obvious that we need to do everything we can to help preserve its mission and continue to actively support the military.