WASHINGTON – In a key Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to review the Air Force Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2021, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) pressed Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David L. Goldfein on several New Mexico priorities. Senator Heinrich questioned Air Force leadership about the critical independent nature of New Mexico’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), the need to coordinate with local and state officials to address PFAS contamination in Clovis, and diverted Holloman Air Force Base funds that have left America’s best and brightest using duct tape to hold their training grounds together.
Senator Heinrich has long-been a champion of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Sp-RCO), located at Kirtland Air Force Base, authorizing nearly $24 million in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. As Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Senator Heinrich has fought to ensure New Mexico remains the small satellite center of excellence for the military. During the hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff Goldfein strongly agreed that the Sp-RCO should remain an independent organization as the U.S. Space Force continues to stand up.
In the FY20 NDAA, Senator Heinrich included provisions from H.R. 1567 or the PFAS Damages Act, to provide relief to communities and businesses impacted by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country, including dairy farms in New Mexico that have been upended by PFAS contamination from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. In February, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper demanding the Department of Defense (DoD) assist with drinking water clean up after PFAS chemicals were detected within the Clovis, New Mexico water system. Senator Heinrich received assurances during today’s hearing that the Secretary of the Air Force would instruct the appropriate Air Force personnel to connect with Clovis city officials to ensure prompt federal-local communication to address PFAS contamination.
In September 2019, Senator Heinrich was informed that President Donald J. Trump was raiding $125 million from New Mexico military construction projects, including $85 million from a project at Holloman Air Force Base. The funding for the project was meant to improve critical training facilities being used to shore up the current Air Force MQ-9 pilot shortfall, replacing aging and failing repurposed buildings that currently do not meet Air Force mission needs. Senator Heinrich pressed Air Force leadership on their plan to address serious health hazards at the Holloman facility.