Senators meet with BRAC official

The Associated Press

A member of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission assured New Mexico’s two senators Thursday that data behind the Pentagon’s decision to recommend the closure of Cannon Air Force Base would be closely scrutinized before the base’s fate is decided.
Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said they received the assurance from retired Brig. Gen. Sue Turner during a telephone meeting to discuss the base and the commission’s upcoming visit and public hearing.
The senators told Turner about their concerns regarding the base’s scores on such issues as encroachment and overland training capabilities. They say Cannon is the only spot in the nation where airspace is increasing.
They also are concerned about the economic impact that closing the base would have on eastern New Mexico and West Texas.
“The more we review the data the Pentagon is giving us for wanting to close Cannon, the more skeptical I become that the justifications have merit,” Domenici said. “I think it’s important that the BRAC commissioners have a sense of the misgivings we have.”
Bingaman said that as the days go on, more flaws are being found in the Pentagon’s rationale for putting Cannon on the closure list.
“We have a strong case to make for keeping Cannon open and based on the conversations we’ve had so far with BRAC commissioners we have reason to believe they will hear us out,” Bingaman said.
The next step for the base commission is to review the Pentagon’s recommendations and hold hearings, including the June 24 hearing in Clovis. It would take five of the nine commissioners to remove a base from the list.
The panel’s recommendations are due to President Bush by Sept. 8. The president may accept or reject the entire list. If he accepts it, it goes to Congress for a yes or no vote, again on the entire list.
The Pentagon has estimated it would save $2.7 billion over 20 years by closing Cannon, costing 2,385 military employees and 384 civilian jobs on base and about 2,000 more indirect jobs. Cannon’s economic impact has been estimated at $200 million a year — about a third of the local economy.