Officials say search for Cannon mission at midway point

By Marlena Hartz

A glossy brochure peddling the assets of Cannon Air Force Base was issued to government agencies Thursday, according to the office of Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M.
The release marks the midway point in the search to find a new mission for Cannon.

It is the fourth step in an eight-step process set forth by the Air Force Base Realignment and Closure Program Management Office. That process is outlined in a fact sheet that accompanies the folding brochure.

Also distributed to federal agencies Thursday were directions for expressing interest in occupying a space at Cannon. Eligible agencies should “submit a letter of interest to BRAC Program Management Office,” which indicates the type of use and amount of property desired, the directions state.

The release of the materials coincided with a visit to Cannon Air Force Base by Col. James Holland, director of the Air Force BRAC Program Management Office.

“What (the brochure) will do (for government agencies) is answer a lot of questions about the capabilities of the base right off the bat,” said Holland, who toured Cannon and Melrose Bombing Range on Thursday and planned to meet with community leaders before his return to the Pentagon early today.

“We want to make sure we find the right reuse for Cannon,” said Holland, whose visit followed an earlier visit by his supervisor, the secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and logistics.

If a mission is not found, the base will be closed by 2010. Though Air Force officials have said that no units or aircrafts will be transferred from Cannon in 2006, a federal commission did promise Cannon’s F-16s to various installations across the country.

Multiple parties have already expressed interest in Cannon in the form of visits to the sprawling, High Plains installation, according to local base advocates. That includes two recent visits by Air Force special operations officials. However, Holland said his office has yet to narrow down a list of potential Cannon occupants.

“We are very early in this process,” he said.
The stream of visiting officials at Cannon will probably march on into the summer. Holland said a new mission for Cannon could be announced then. Even if a suitable mission was found sooner, Holland said he was not sure the Pentagon would let the public know, depending on the type of mission identified.

According to the fact sheet, once information about Cannon Air Force Base is distributed to “other military services, federal agencies, and to the public through selected direct mail, Web page and other methods,” the Pentagon will “conduct informational workshops in Washington, D.C.( in March) and at Cannon (from April through mid-May) for interested parties and potential bidders.”

Holland said there is a “distinct possibility Cannon may grow,” but he would not rule out the possibility of the base shrinking or closing.

A spokesperson from Domenici’s office said the senator was pleased with the brochure and remains optimistic a military mission will be identified for Cannon. A joint press release from the offices of Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., emphasized that finding a new mission for Cannon is a process.

“The solicitation of all federal agencies has always been a part of the Pentagon’s post-BRAC plan for Cannon,” Bingaman said in the release. “By scheduling these workshops, the Pentagon is fulfilling all the requirements that need to be met before it can finalize plans for Cannon’s future.”