The aerospace-rich Antelope Valley, already hard hit by defense cutbacks, figures to take more blows with planned deep decreases in military spending. The desert region’s economy is heavily dependent on building and testing new weapons systems.

Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) is the first lawmaker to represent all of the Antelope Valley. Thus, he has invited House Armed Services Chairman Ronald V. Dellums (D-Oakland) and members of his committee and other influential panels to visit the area to see the role it plays in the nation’s defense and to stress the need to retain as many military jobs as possible in Southern California.

McKeon has established a committee of Palmdale and Lancaster city officials, community leaders and defense contractors to devise a schedule and themes for a briefing. The congressional delegation would also visit the defense-laden South Bay district of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey), giving the trip a bipartisan cast.

McKeon says he has a commitment from Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Colton), chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, to participate in the field trip along with members of his panel. Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) and Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), who each sit on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, are on board as well.


Originally, McKeon hoped the visit would take place in late April. But Dellums has been preoccupied with proposed military base closings--including several in his own district.

“Every time I see him, I try to pin him down,” McKeon said recently of Dellums. “He says, ‘Hey, we’re going to do it.’ ”