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NM delegation urges Space Force to utilize state assets

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham want the newly created U.S. Space Force to take advantage of what the state has to offer.

Grisham, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small – all Democrats – sent a letter to Gen. John W. Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command, urging him to utilize the state’s existing public and private sector space capabilities as the Space Force develops its infrastructure and mission.

The letter was also sent to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Barbara Barrett.

New Mexico is home to many of the nation’s space assets, including several Department of Defense space research and acquisition directorates at Kirtland Air Force Base, Spaceport America, two national laboratories, research universities and a growing list of innovative private companies, the letter said. The space industry in the state represents thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact, the lawmakers said.

“We stand ready to work with you and your team as you develop the culture, doctrine, and industrial base to continue our nation’s leadership role in space and protect key assets above the Karman line,” the lawmakers wrote. “The state of New Mexico was witness to the birth of the rocket age when Dr. Robert H. Goddard first experimented in our high deserts. Our state is apt and eager to continue serving a critical role in the development of the new space economy and its relationship with the emerging Space Force.”

Among the assets listed in the letter included: White Sands Missile Range; NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) at White Sands Test Facility; Air Force Research Laboratory Tech Engagement Office; New Mexico Tech’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory, an asset under construction that can be utilized for orbital and deep space situational awareness; mission capacity in the New Mexico National Guard; New Space New Mexico, supporting large and small private space industry leaders throughout the state; and Sandia Science and Technology Park and Innovate ABQ, technology communities in Albuquerque supporting regional startups and Fortune 500 companies.

HAALAND GIVES STATE OF INDIAN NATION RESPONSE: Haaland urged residents of Indian Country to answer the 2020 Census when she gave the congressional response to the address given by National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp at the NCAI Executive Council Winter Conference last week.

“I urge every tribe across this country to do all it can to ensure that our people are counted in this year’s census,” she said. “Funding that is important to the future of our communities is on the line if we neglect to be counted. It is especially challenging in states deemed ‘hard to count’ by the census bureau. However, a commitment to make the census a priority, will ensure that Indian Country doesn’t leave funding that will make a positive difference in the lives of our children on the table.”

Haaland, who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, also criticized Trump administration efforts to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument and the size of Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah during her speech. The administration seeks to open the area to oil, natural gas and mineral development, which it feels would boost the local economy.

“These two sacred areas – the ancestral homelands of my people – (are) now open to leases and desecration by extractive industries, which will exacerbate climate change and destroy countless sacred sites and erase our history,” she said.

She was not the only member of the state’s delegation to address the NCAI. Udall – vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – received an award for significant lifetime achievement on behalf of Indian Country. Heinrich also spoke.

“In any legislation or work with tribes I undertake, I’m guided by three core principles: respecting tribal sovereignty, promoting tribal self-determination, and ensuring meaningful government-to-government consultation takes place,” Udall said.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 


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