Air Force pushing to have Cannon’s fate decided by June or July

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The Air Force is on a limited list of parties interested in Cannon Air Force Base, according to a local base advocate.

The Air Force conducted a workshop Tuesday in Washington, D.C., for government parties interested in occupying the base. Though the Air Force expressed interest in occupying the base, few other entities did, Cannon advocate Chad Lydick said.

Attendance was so sparse that workshops designed for the same purpose to be held at Cannon Air Force in April and May will likely be canceled, Lydick said. The base advocate, however, does not see low attendance as a bad sign.

“It is not discouraging news at all. It just means that the list (of potential Cannon occupants) can be narrowed down quickly, and this in fact may speed up the process (of finding a new mission). This is not a setback,” Lydick said.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne indicated to Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., that the workshop, staged to identify maximum operations for the base, was useful, a press release from his office said.

The senator was told Wednesday by Air Force officials “that the Defense Department, including Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, wants the fate of Cannon Air Force Base decided this year, ideally as early as June or July,” the release said.

If the bureaucratic process slows progress, the Air Force goal is to find Cannon a mission at least by the end of the year, the release said. A federal commission requested during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process that the Air Force find a mission for the base by 2010, or it would be shuttered.

“We all realize that Cannon will not be the base it was, but I am hopeful it will have a broader mission that fits with expanded joint operations. In the long run, the base will be better positioned to benefit the Air Force and the Clovis area,” Domenici said during a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, according to the release.

Wynne said the New Mexico ranges cannot be duplicated and would be utilized as Fort Bliss becomes home for field testing of the Army’s Future Combat System, according to the Domenici press release. The vast expansion of Fort Bliss is a result of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment process.

“We are hoping to have some jointness in our mission. We would like to not be a single mission base anymore,” Lydick said.

“Based on where the military is going, … I don’t believe they will settle on a single mission like we had before,” Lydick said.