Gail Gitcho/Pearce: 202-225-4780
Chris Gallegos/Domenici: 202-224-7082
Jude McCartin/Bingaman: 202-224-1804
NEWS RELEASE NEW MEXICO DELEGATION
For immediate release: Wednesday, March 5, 2003
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday, March 5, 2003 In a bipartisan effort to support New Mexico Tech and Socorro County, Rep. Steve Pearce with Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking him to reinstate two Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) programs at New Mexico Tech that have been slated for elimination.
Until the end of 2002, New Mexico Tech conducted a Rural Border Patrol Operations course and a Hostage Negotiation course for the Department of State's ATA program under a cooperative agreement with Louisiana State University (LSU). At that time, New Mexico Tech received notification that its Hostage Negotiation program was being relocated to Louisiana State University effective January 2003. Then, in January, New Mexico Tech received word from LSU that its Rural Border Patrol Operations program was also in line to be terminated and moved elsewhere.
The Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance Program was initiated in 1983 as a means of providing specialized training and equipment to nations facing terrorist threats. ATA is actively training police and security forces throughout the world to combat, deter and solve terrorist crimes in their countries.
The lawmakers contend the loss of these programs will have a significant financial impact on New Mexico Tech and the surrounding community, as many of the students who participate in these ATA training programs frequent local businesses and restaurants. In 2002, the university estimates that the two programs had a combined economic impact of $1.9 million on New Mexico Tech and the city of Socorro.
In a letter to Secretary Powell, the New Mexico lawmakers noted that New Mexico Tech has invested significantly in the ATA training program, particularly through the construction of a state-of-the-art small arms range. In addition, they pointed out that New Mexico Tech provides an exclusive training area, which consists of 3,137 acres, for the Rural Border Patrol Operations program - at no cost to the ATA program.
Rep. Pearce said that ATA programs will continue to play a role in enhancing the economy of Socorro County. "In the process," he said, "the program improves both bilateral and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism."
"I do not know of any sound basis for not having these programs continue at New Mexico Tech. This school has built a strong record of being very resourceful in its anti-terrorism and First Responders programs, and we want Secretar Powell to acknowledge that expertise and restore these programs," Domenici said.
"New Mexico Tech has long been leading the way in the fight against terrorism," Bingaman said. "Clearly, the loss of these critical antiterrorism 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."
In order to minimize the economic impact on Socorro County, Pearce, Bingaman, and Domenici are urging Secretary Powell to act quickly to reverse the Department of State's decision to terminate New Mexico Tech's ATA programs.