By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
Local Cannon Air Force Base supporters are reacting positively to details released in Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s press briefing Thursday on Base Realignments and Closures, more commonly known as BRAC.
As specifics of the release circled through his dedicated community, Washington Committee member Randy Harris’ hope that Cannon will be absent from the list was boosted.
“I feel very good (after the release). We have done everything they (Department of Defense) said they wanted or needed for the future,” said Harris, who visits Washington at least once or twice a year to strengthen community ties with officials in the Pentagon as an ambassador for The Committee of Fifty.
Rumsfeld implied Thursday his list of proposed closings and consolidations will be shorter than initially predicted. If his list is approved, he said, the government stands to save an estimated $48.8 billion over a 20-year period.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money compared to what we thought,” Harris said.
Rumsfeld also said that bases only have 5 to 10 percent more space than needed. Both figures ease Committee of Fifty fears that Cannon could be slated for closure, Harris said.
Rumsfeld’s recommendations are scheduled to be released today to an independent base closing commission. Dozens of bases in the United States will be significantly affected — shut down, reduced in size or expanded to accept additional troops from the U.S. and overseas. The shuffling and closing of bases, said Gen. Richard B. Myers, appearing with Rumsfeld Thursday, is necessary to catapult the U.S. military into and beyond the 21st century.
Harris agreed that war-fighting capacities will be strengthened by BRAC; however, he said that Cannon, unlike the majority of bases, is sufficiently prepared for the challenges of the future and a corresponding shift in threats, from the Cold War age to an age of terrorism.
“From what I was told,” said Harris, who missed Rumsfeld’s televised briefing, but heard details through friends, “he indicated that the reason for this BRAC was to get military installations that will provide for the future. If there is ever a base for the future, it is Cannon, because it has no encroachment.”
Harris touted what he sees as Cannon’s most valuable asset, unencroached land and air space, while pointing to communities, such as Concord, Calif., whose citizens would rather see housing complexes and city centers in place of their military bases. In Clovis, he said, there are opposite sentiments.
“It just makes sense to me — if you are running a navy or army and a community wants them to leave … make a robust, joint operation in Clovis,” Harris said.
In addition to economic motivations, the Pentagon would also like to promote greater integration of training among the military services — and between the active duty and reserve forces — by having them share bases.
Although it is currently a single mission base, Cannon, Harris said, has the capacity to double its size. This, he said, should make Cannon inviting to officials who encourage joint operations.
Rumsfeld did not indicate how many bases of the 425 domestic bases he would be recommending for closure or downsizing, but he did recognize the drastic economic impact that is likely to occur in communities where bases are closed or realigned.
“The government,” Rumsfeld said, referring to communities who will be affected by base closings and realignments, “will offer economic assistance.”
Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon Air Force Base’s public affair’s office declined to offer reactions to Rumsfeld’s briefing, but recommended community members learn more about the BRAC process in order to ease fears.
“The way things go here (on base) is we’re told what to do and we do it. We are appreciative and concerned about our relationship with the community,” Kok said.
7:15 am: The Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations will first be distributed to members of Congress via e-mail.
8 a.m.: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will host a news conference at approximately 8:15 am which will broadcast over the internet at
Coverage on C-SPAN is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.
The Defense Department will publish all data used in the process after the conference begins at
More Web sites
• Department of Defense’s BRAC section
• Government Accountability Office
• BRAC Frequently Asked
• Air Force BRAC section
Check http://www.pntonline.com for BRAC developments.