Bill could jump-start Cannon construction

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A funding bill before the U.S. Congress could help Air Force Special Operations Command begin construction at Cannon Air Force Base earlier than planned if it meets with final approval, according to AFSOC officials.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill Thursday that included more than $10 million in funds to assist with Cannon Air Force Base’s transition to Air Force Special Operations Command, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici’s office.

Currently, construction at Cannon is budgeted to take place between 2008 and 2013 with the majority being done in 2011, AFSOC spokesperson Denise Boyd said Thursday.

AFSOC is slated to take command of Cannon Oct. 1.

Allocations from Congress could speed things up.

“The majority of our construction on the base is not currently scheduled until 2011. That’s when we know we’ll have the money,” Boyd said.

“Any money we receive before then means that we will potentially be able to start construction earlier.”

Thursday’s bill, which passed by a 92 to 1 vote, will now go to a conference committee so differences between the House and Senate versions can be reconciled, the release said.

Excluding the funds under consideration by Congress, construction costs at Cannon are budgeted around $435 million, she said.

That figure includes the construction of eight large-aircraft hangars, nine squadron operations facilities and additional dormitory space, as well as modifications and renovations to existing facilities.

Larger office buildings are required to support the larger number of personnel assigned to flying units, as well as the equipment they use, Boyd explained.

Likewise, larger squadron operation and maintenance facilities will be needed, and hangar upgrades and modifications are needed to accommodate incoming C-130s and CV-22s which occupy more space than F-16s.

Temporary hangers will be constructed until permanent hangers can be built, she said.

In addition, Boyd said communications systems need to be upgraded to support incoming unmanned aircraft systems.

FY2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill (HR.2642) provides:

$855,000 funding for the planning and design of a $31.5 million hangar project to support AFSOC aircraft at Cannon.

$7.5 million to construct an MC-130 flight simulator facility

$1.7 million to alter an existing hangar to accommodate C-130s.

A $109.2 billion measure, the bill provides $21.5 billion for military construction projects and more than $87 billion for the Veteran’s Affairs Department, the release said.