WASHINGTON, D.C., March 17, 2003 -- A proposed plan by the U. S. Department of State to relocate or even eliminate two Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) programs that are currently in operation at New Mexico Tech has run into strong bipartisan opposition from the U. S. Capitol to the State Capitol.
U.S Representative Steve Pearce signed on with U. S. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman in a letter sent last
week to Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking him to intervene and reverse recently drafted State Department plans to relocate the Rural Border Patrol Operations training program from New Mexico Tech to either Louisiana State University or a U. S. Department of Energy training facility in Albuquerque.
In addition, the letter also asks Secretary Powell to reinstate a related Hostage Negotiation training program at New Mexico Tech, which was eliminated at the end of last year, and to continue using the university's extensive research and testing facilities to support other ATA programs.
"This coordinated effort being conducted by our state's senior statesmen, along with freshman Congressman Pearce, clearly attests to the importance of resurrecting these established programs, not only to New Mexico Tech and New Mexico's benefit, but also in the greater interest of our nation's homeland and international security as well," said New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López.
Two legislative measures also have been introduced at the current New Mexico State Legislature, requesting the U. S. Department of State to reinstate the Rural Border Patrol Operations training program at New Mexico Tech.
House Memorial 20 is being spearheaded by State Representative Don Tripp; while its identical counterpart, Senate Memorial 34, has been introduced by State Senator Ben D. Altamirano, in an effort to quell a federal administrative decision which the lawmakers contend will adversely affect New Mexico Tech's research budget, as well as Socorro County's economic development.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also joined in the bipartisan effort to reverse the State Department's decision, making several phone calls to his own personal contacts in the upper echelons of federal government, in hopes of reinstating the anti-terrorist programs at New Mexico Tech.
In the letter sent to Secretary Powell, Pearce, Domenici, and Bingaman reiterated the importance of maintaining the ATA training programs to bolster national security and "improve both bilateral and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism."
The New Mexico delegation also made special note of the significant investments New Mexico Tech and the State of New Mexico have made in the past to ensure the programs' viability, most recently with the construction of a state-of-the-art small arms training and practice range.
In addition, they also pointed out that New Mexico Tech has been providing a prime training area, which consists of 3,137 acres, at no cost to the Rural Border Patrol Operations program.
"I do not know of any sound basis for not having these programs continue at New Mexico Tech," said Senator Domenici.
"This university has built a strong record of being very resourceful in its Anti-Terrorism and First Responders programs, and we want Secretary Powell to acknowledge that expertise and restore these programs."
"New Mexico Tech has long been leading the way in the fight against terrorism," Senator Bingaman said. "Clearly, the loss of these critical anti-terrorism training programs would have severe consequences not just for New Mexico Tech and Socorro County, but also for our nation as a whole. . . . I hope Secretary Powell will work closely with us to reverse this shortsighted decision."
"The bipartisan efforts being mounted by a wide spectrum of New Mexico's leadership on behalf of these critically important training programs serves as a clear example of how we can all come together in support of our nation's Homeland Security and anti-terrorist efforts," López added.
In a recent economic development study, New Mexico Tech estimated that the two ATA programs which are being considered for relocation or elimination had a combined economic impact of $1.9 million on New Mexico Tech and the City of Socorro during fiscal year 2002.