By David Irvin
Two Base Realignment and Closure Commissioners who attended a regional hearing last month in Clovis will abstain from a vote on the future of Cannon Air Force Base.
Former Reps. James Bilbray of Nevada and James Hansen of Utah will recuse themselves from a vote on Cannon, reducing the number of participating commissioners to just seven, according to base supporters and Sen. Pete Domenici’s office.
Five votes are needed to secure Cannon’s removal from the closure list.
“It’s something that could sure affect this thing,” Clovis Committee of Fifty member Chad Lydick said. “If it takes five votes no matter what, and if you have two of them recusing themselves, then you are talking five out of seven.”
Legal counsel for the BRAC commission asked the commissioners to recuse themselves on any votes involving their home states because of perceived conflicts of interest, Lydick said.
The Pentagon has recommended that Cannon be closed and some of its F-16s be moved to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
In May, both commissioners said the would recuse themselves from decisions on bases in states where they are associated, according to an article on govexec.com.
“I was kind of shocked when our counsel advised me to recuse,” Bilbray is quoted as saying in a May 21 article appearing in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Chris Gallegos of Domenici’s office said the commission could run into problems as complex scenarios involving many bases are investigated.
“You could come up with a scenario in which the majority of the commissioners will recuse themselves because of bases in their states or bases they are associated with,” Gallegos said. “Our staff (Domenici’s and Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s) is actively working with the BRAC commission staff on other alternatives and how they are going to address all this.”
However, the team charged with saving the base — made up of Committee of Fifty members and state and local officials — is actively researching the legal basis for the recusal.
“We are researching the legal interpretation of this to see if this is the absolute way it can be interpreted, (or) if there is some leeway,” Lydick said.
Base supporters continue their efforts to save the base on other fronts, Lydick said. For instance, community member Randy Harris and New Mexico’s director of military base planning and support Hanson Scott will soon present more information to the BRAC staff, where much of the focus is being placed.
“A lot of work to be done,” Lydick said, “we are not resting by any means.”