Fittingly, the fate of Cannon Air Force Base started with numbers and they will greatly impact the outcome. The numbers are clearer now than they were last spring because we know more about the numbers behind our national defense leaders’ plan to close the base.
Not all the numbers are pretty and many Air Force and Department of Defense numbers are flat wrong. But it helps to understand this complex process by breaking down some of the key ones:
• Fifteen weeks ago, America’s defense leaders announced Cannon Air Force Base was on their list to close.
• In the next 48 to 72 hours, we should learn if the plan is rejected — as it should be — by a majority of the nine Base Closure and Realignment commissioners. Ironically, the decision could be made Friday, which is when this year’s Cannon Appreciation Day feast and prize-giveaway will be hosted by local chamber of commerce and community volunteers at the base.
• Five votes are needed to reject the recommendation by the Air Force and the DoD. The majority odds could be worse, too, because two commissioners have said they would recuse themselves from voting on Cannon because of potential conflicts of interest.
• Military value flaw: Cannon should be rated second, not 50th, among the Air Force bases. The Air Force conveniently forgot to mention, among other things, the nearly completed effort to get a supersonic rating for the airspace.
• Savings flaw: $150 million is what might be saved in 20 years if Cannon were to close. The DoD claimed it would save $2.7 billion, a number that rose a billion just before the list was published May 13.
• The General Accounting Office has stated the DoD’s overall savings guess of nearly $50 billion is really $24 billion. Oops.
• Regional economic impact is estimated at 30 percent to 40 percent for the Clovis-Portales region, state officials estimate — DoD said 20 percent to 28 percent, which is still more than double the next nearest damage figure of all closure facilities.
• For just $5 million, 3,000 acres can be added to Cannon’s size. Near heavily encroached Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, Va., or at Luke AFB near Phoenix, see how few acres, or homes stacking up around the runways, that those dollars will buy.
Several future missions for Cannon and its highly rated companion Melrose Bombing Range — laser weapons being developed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters later this decade — have been identified recently.
As this saga in regional history draws to a close, we believe five or more BRAC commissioners should recall the above numbers as they vote to take Cannon Air Force Base off the closure list.