State won the battle over Piñon Cañon, but will El Paso County lose the war?

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It didn’t take long for the opportunists to come out.

With the ink of Gov. Bill Ritter’s signature barely dry on a bill forbidding the state to sell land to the Army to expand the Piñon Cañon training site, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison made it known last week that Texas and Fort Bliss would be more than happy to accommodate the Army’s expanding training needs.

Hutchison said that the battle in Colorado over Piñon Cañon “is not worth fighting when posts like Fort Bliss still have room to grow and accommodate large scale training missions.”

And despite the local love of the Mountain Post, she makes a good point.

It’s not just human nature, but even the laws of physics support taking the path of least resistance. Why would the Army want to waste its time and resources in a state that has clearly sent the message that military expansion is unwanted and unwelcome?

Now the argument could be made that Hutchison is a member of the minority party in Washington, D.C., at the moment, and has little power to make anything happen, but if the Army wants more training space, it’s probably going to get it – and it probably isn’t going to be very particular about where said space is.

Yes, our powerful elected Democrats flexed their political muscles and slammed the door shut on the Army at Piñon Cañon. They might even have engaged in a round of back slapping and high fives afterward, but did they truly consider the long-term consequences of the message they were sending?

Probably not. They’re politicians – and politicians rarely, at least these days, think long term. They want to keep their political bases happy today, tomorrow and maybe next week. And staring down the Army did just that for supporters of the new law.

Perhaps Hutchison is simply a lone voice crying in the west Texas wilderness – but she’s likely not. Others are surely out there, waiting for their chance to show the Army how much more they care than the residents of the Centennial State.

As we know all too well in El Paso County, securing an expanded military presence is the type of economic driver that politicians love and locals pray for.

Haven’t we been counting down the days until new troops arrive at Fort Carson? Aren’t we glad that the region’s military presence provides a bit of a cushion against economic downturns?

If you think the Army isn’t important to the vitality of Colorado Springs, just ask a home builder or a retailer. We’ll bet a shiny nickel that neither would tell the Army it wasn’t welcome.

But that’s us. The rest of the state doesn’t care whether El Paso County prospers.

Their lives won’t really be affected one way or another if soldiers are sent to other posts in other states. And they probably won’t lose much sleep if our local economy tanks and we become just another rest stop on the interstate between Pueblo and Denver.