Editorial: City and State fortunate to have the constant impact of Kirtland AFB

At the start of World War II, no one imagined that a hastily built training and testing facility in southern Albuquerque would one day account for 10% of the metro area’s economy and 13% of its jobs.

The economic impact of Kirtland Air Force Base cannot be overstated. The facility that began in 1941 as a 2,000-acre US Army airfield has since grown into a 50,000-acre military and research and development facility that is boosting the metro economy.

Kirtland contributed about $ 4.6 billion to the local economy in fiscal 2020, up from $ 4.5 billion in 2018, according to the Foundation’s 2020 Economic Impact Study. KAFB’s total economic footprint is approximately $ 7.4 billion. To put that in perspective, the entire state of New Mexico is currently operating on a $ 7.4 billion budget, funding everything from state police to CYFD.

More than 23,000 people work on the base, the vast majority of whom are civilians. The base also has approximately 3,500 military personnel, most of whom live off base and frequently attend local businesses.

Base commander Col. Jason Vattioni said KAFB’s strength has increased by around 400 employees over the past two years. And it is expected to add around 2,000 jobs in the coming years.

“These employees buy homes, pay taxes and support local businesses, generating billions of dollars in local economic impact,” Vattioni said at the Kirtland Partnership Committee’s annual breakfast last week.

The base’s annual payroll is now approaching $ 2.3 billion. The Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories, which have about 12,700 employees working on the base, are adding an additional $ 1.36 billion to the payroll.

“These numbers are huge. It’s phenomenal, ”said Brad Steward, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kirtland Partnership Committee.

Kirtland has become the equivalent of a large city at the south-eastern end of the city. Its economic impact is felt throughout the metro and throughout the state through its contractors, civilians and active duty personnel. The base reported about $ 960 million in local spending in FY2020, including $ 287 million in contracts with businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.

Beyond the economic impact, KAFB is a research and development center for the United States. Research and development are the main missions of the Sandia National Laboratories, Directed Energy and Space Vehicle Directorates of the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Ministry of Energy and the Weapons Center. Air Force nuclear facilities, all located in Kirtland.

Kirtland also plays a direct role in defending our nation. The 377th Air Base Wing supports the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise, while the 58th Special Operations Wing trains for search and rescue and special operations with rotary-wing, fixed-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft. .

It’s easy to take Kirtland for granted, but we shouldn’t be. Other cities would jump at the chance to host the country’s fifth largest air force base. Many Albuquerques unknowingly use Kirtland for commercial air travel because Kirtland and Albuquerque International Airport share the same runways.

What started as a makeshift training and testing facility with simple wood-frame structures has grown into an integral part of national defense and Albuquerque’s economy. Colonel Roy C. Kirtland, who learned to fly in one of the Wright Brothers’ first planes and gave the base his name in 1942, would likely be proud of the base’s growth. So should we.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.

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