Questioned by Heinrich on PFAS, deputy defense secretary says Pentagon should meet with families

Laura Paskus

February 9, 2021

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich had questions last week during the Senate confirmation hearing of Kathleen Hicks as Deputy Secretary of Defense.  

Among other things, Heinrich emphasized the need for the U.S. Department of Defense to take full responsibility for PFAS contamination at military bases nationwide, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases in New Mexico 

And he asked Hicks how she would prioritize the military’s cleanup efforts.  

Heinrich said he recently spoke with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, whom the senator said “sort of deflected DOD’s responsibility for PFAS contamination in communities around the country.”  

In New Mexico, the military has resisted the state’s mandates for cleanupgoing so far as suing the state to challenge its authority and refusing even to share information with the state about the toxic plumes or cleanup plans.  

Hicks responded that senior leadership in the Pentagon should meet with families and community members and “understand exactly what has occurred and what the consequences have been.”  

She added that if confirmed she was committed to meeting a congressional timeline to remove PFAS from firefighting foams in the future, but didn’t exactly acknowledge responsibility for past actions, saying DOD should be “working on solutions to do cleanup.”  

Meanwhile, New Mexicans had some questions of their own. 

After we covered a recent U.S. Geological Survey study of PFAS in New Mexico's waters, readers had a range of questionsincluding those related to private well testing, the source of PFAS contamination, and the possibility that New Mexico might someday develop its own standards for the toxic chemicals.  

Last week, we hosted a Facebook Live event with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) to help people find answers about PFAS in New Mexico’s waters. 

Participants in the event included Rebecca Roose, NMED Water Protection Division Director; Rose Galbraith, NMEDOH epidemiologist and Safe Water Program Manager; Joe Martinez, NMED Drinking Water Bureau Chief; and Andy Jochems, NMED’s Source Water Specialist.  

If you have questions that weren’t answered during that event you can reach state experts at: and 

Additional Resources:

If you’ve been affected by PFAS contamination in your community here in New Mexico, call our tip line at (505) 433-7242. To read more coverage of PFAS in New Mexico visit “Groundwater War: New Mexico’s Toxic Threat,” which includes a timeline of events and studies on PFAS.