Cannon funding frustrates Domenici

CNJ staff

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates told U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Wednesday he supports establishing a special operations mission at Cannon Air Force Base and has asked Secretary of the Air Force Mike Wynne to follow up on infrastructure funding, according to information from Domenici’s office.

Domenici expressed frustration with the Defense Department for not providing funding that will allow the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to make a seamless transition at Cannon, a news release from his office said.

He asked Gates Wednesday for an update on Pentagon plans to make up a $72 million shortfall in military construction needs for FY2008 to support the AFSOC takeover of Cannon. Domenici brought the issue to Gates’ attention at a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday and in a personal telephone call last week.

“As the days go by, my concern grows about the seeming lack of plans to build up Cannon to meet the Special Operations Command’s needs in the near term. We want the transfer of the base to be as seamless as possible and that will require the Defense Department working with us to fund these unmet requirements,” Domenici said.

Domenici asked Gates to explain why the projects are not included in the FY2008 Department of Defense budget, what is needed from Congress to ensure Cannon has the assets and facilities to support AFSOC, and how the lack of funding could affect operational capabilities and personnel once AFSOC assumes control of Cannon in October.

Gates told Domenici in a letter he stands behind the transfer.

Domenici has already requested $68.5 million of the $72 million in FY2008 military construction project funding for the transition. The remaining funding needed is related to planning and design work, which Domenici believes the Defense Department should provide in its budget.

The Domenici requests are in addition to the two military construction projects requested for Cannon in the FY2008 budget presented by President Bush to Congress in February, according to the news release. That budget plan recommended $7.5 million to construct an MC-130 flight simulator facility at Cannon, and $1.7 million to alter an existing hangar to accommodate C-130s.