By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Funds for military construction emerged as a top need for the new mission at Cannon Air Force Base in a meeting between New Mexico congressional delegates and Air Force leaders, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
Cannon and Air Force Special Operations Command leaders met Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues related to the upcoming transition at Cannon, according to a New Mexico Congressional Delegation press release.
The Air Force 16th Special Operations Wing assumes ownership of Cannon on Oct. 1, 2007.
According to Domenici spokesperson Chris Gallegos, getting money for the construction needs of the new mission emerged as an essential activity for representatives in the 110th Congress.
“For example,” he said, “should they (the Air Force) move some larger aircraft, such as the C-130, to Cannon, they would have some additional hangar needs.”
Gallegos said other Cannon focuses identified Wednesday include the following: getting funds for infrastructure needs, approving transfer of overseas assets to the United States, completing the environmental assessment of the new mission on time and maintaining the overall timeline for the new mission.
The environmental assessment of the new mission’s impact is slated for release in March, Air Force officials have previously indicated.
In early February, the president’s recommended military budget should be set and New Mexico delegates will better understand whether the monetary needs of the new mission will be met, Gallegos said.
“Then, we will know what we need to do,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting also confirmed that the new mission is “on track.”
“After this meeting, I’m convinced we’re on track for getting our new mission in a timely fashion. The delegation will continue to stay in close contact with AFSOC and Cannon to assist in any way we can to expedite the transition,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said via the release.
The appointment of Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to the House Appropriations Committee also bodes well for the new mission, delegation spokespeople said Wednesday.
Udall was one of 10 Democrats nominated to the 110th Congress committee Wednesday, according to Udall spokeswoman Marissa Padilla.
“He is in a better position to fight for things like assisting our veterans, improving access to health care, making education more affordable and protecting our natural resources — things that have always been important to him. That includes Cannon Air Force Base and the eastern side of the state. He will continue to advocate for them as much as possible,” Padilla said.