Domenici talks BRAC with subcommittee chair

Freedom Newspapers

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., on Tuesday received key support for ensuring the future of Cannon Air Force Base and set sights on finding federal legislation that can be used to bring a new mission to the base, a news release from his office said.

Domenici met Tuesday with Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, who expressed his willingness to find a mission for Cannon, the release said.

“Senator Stevens indicated his willingness to be helpful on Cannon,” Domenici said in the news release. “Because he is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, this is good news for us. He understands our situation, and the value of the military assets offered at Cannon.”

Late last month, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted to create a military enclave at Cannon, removing the F-16 fighters stationed there now, and setting a Dec. 31, 2009, deadline for the Pentagon to move a new mission there or close the base.

Cannon supporter and Clovis banker Randy Harris said
Domenici’s work with Stevens is “one of many steps” the state delegation is doing to ensure that Cannon can make a smooth transition into a new mission.

“A mission requires appropriation,” Harris said. “A mission requires funding. This is one piece of what I believe our congressional delegation will be doing over the (next) several weeks to help the Department of Defense find out what the best mission for Cannon Air Force Base is.”

Harris said he feels Cannon is in safe hands because New Mexico’s congressional delegation has many members with seniority and relationships with people who are in positions to help the base secure a new mission. U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is a member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and Domenici serves on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Marshall Stinnett, a member of the state’s Military Base Planning Commission, said Domenici will need to get help from many people in Washington to put pressure on the DoD for a new mission.

“I think Domenici is going to do everything he can to get a mission for Cannon,” Stinnett said, “and I think he’ll get one.”

Domenici is reviewing possible legislative vehicles to prompt the Defense Department to actively cooperate in the effort to find a new mission for Cannon. One such vehicle, for example, could be the defense spending bill the Senate Appropriations Committee could consider later this month, the news release said.

The BRAC Commission recommendations are expected to be delivered to President Bush by Thursday. The Bush administration and Congress must then approve or disapprove the decisions on an “all or nothing” basis.

Assuming the list is approved by Bush and Congress, Harris doesn’t think Cannon will turn into a lame duck base.

“I don’t see that happening at all,” Harris said. “I believe (our delegation’s) goal is to work aggressively and I already see them doing that to ensure there is a smooth transition (to Cannon’s next potential mission).”