By Marlena Hartz
Cannon Air Force Base supporters expressed cautious optimism on Tuesday as Base Realignment and Closure commissioners added military installations to the possible closure list.
“I am very encouraged, not only that they chose to put about nine additional bases on the list, but that the Commission is independent in their thinking,” said Chad Lydick, a Clovis businessman and member of the Cannon support group Committee of Fifty.
“The biggest thing that (Tuesday’s) decision showed is that the Commission takes an independent view — it shows they will consider their own alternatives for base closures and realignments.”
Specifically, Lydick and other Cannon backers said the addition of Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia to the possible closure list is good news for Cannon.
Lydick said the Oceana scenario — which BRAC Chairman Anthony Principi has said could end with a shipment of A-10 planes to Cannon — is the brain child of the local save-Cannon team. That group is comprised of New Mexico congressional delegates, retired military officials, civilians and several hired professionals. The team, he said, presented five alternative scenarios to Cannon closure to the BRAC Commission after a regional hearing in Clovis last month.
Lydick said the team targeted Oceana because of its blaring contrasts to Cannon.
“Oceana is very highly encroached and the local community there had made it known to the Commission before the (BRAC) list came out in May that they wanted the base closed due to noise complaints and a degree of activities there. We ran some cost figures on the (Oceana) scenario and gave them to the Commission. A lot of research went into presenting the five scenarios,” Lydick said.
But Lydick and other Cannon supporters also urged caution about Tuesday’s vote.
“I don’t know what the implications of Oceana’s realignment or closure would be for Cannon right now,” said Hanson Scott, director of the office for military base planning and support.
“The Oceana decision,” said Sen. Domenici, R-N.M., in a joint New Mexico congressional press release that lauded Cannon’s individual merits, “creates some possibly interesting scenarios related to Cannon’s future. But I don’t believe our success will solely hinge on Oceana.”
The lawmakers met with BRAC Commissioners Philip Coyle and Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton following the Oceana addition. Lawmakers said the Commission indicated then that they would further review Air Force deviations in assessing Cannon’s value to the military, as well as opportunities for joint military training opportunities, and the negative economic impact a Cannon closure would have on the Clovis-Portales area.
The Commission must present its recommendations for closure and realignment to the president by Sept. 8.