By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Formation of a federal team to assess future missions for Cannon Air Force Base is not official, a Department of Defense spokesman said on Wednesday.
Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday a Pentagon-led team will assess possible missions for Cannon and report the findings to the Pentagon in 180 days.
But Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Dan Stanley said DoD officials would not make any plans concerning any base on the Base Closure and Realignment list until Congress approves the federal commission’s revised list.
Congress has until later this year to approve the list.
The base-closing commission voted in August to remove Cannon’s F-16 squadrons, but called upon DoD to find a new Cannon mission.
Air Force secretary nominee Mike Wynne had conversations Monday with Gov. Richardson and delegation members about the future of Cannon, and plans to continue to do so in the future, according to Stanley and Richardson.
Richardson said Monday that Wynne and Hanson Scott, the director of the New Mexico Office for Military Base Planning and Support, would be members of the assessment team.
Stanley said Wynne did not commit to being a member of the team; in fact, the team does not yet exist.
“No special (Cannon) group has been formed. We are waiting for Congress to complete its role,” Stanley said Wednesday in a phone interview.
“Do we make promises about commissions and who’s going to be on them? No, at this time we don’t, not prior to congressional action,” Stanley said.
Scott could not be reached for comment. Wynne was not available for comment, according to Stanley.
Richardson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but his spokesperson, Billy Sparks said Stanley’s remarks “in no way conflict with Gov. Richardson’s report of the meeting.” He said the governor and the nominee discussed a 180-day plan, but did not finalize it.
He said the group of individuals Richardson named would not officially form a team until the BRAC list is passed at the congressional level.
New Mexico’s congressional delegation is working hard to snag a mission for Cannon, although no team has been formed by the Pentagon to assess the base, according to Steve Bell, chief of staff for Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M.
Bell said Wynne and other Pentagon officials are engaged in brainstorming with New Mexico officials, but Richardson “overstated his case.”
Domenici is scheduled to meet with Wynne today. A bill that would keep assets at Cannon for at least a year is on the Senate floor. Bell said he expects it to pass by Friday.