Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers
Born Monday in the nation’s capital was a Cannon Air Force Base assessment team. Though in its infancy, the team will assess possible missions for Cannon and report the findings to the Pentagon in 180 days, Gov. Bill Richardson said.
A federal commission voted to remove Cannon’s F-16 squadrons in August as part of the Base Closure and Realignment process, but called upon the Department of Defense to find a new mission for the High Plains base.
The formation of the Pentagon-led team shows support for Cannon exists where it is needed most, Richardson said.
“A major hurdle has been cleared. The hurdle — the Department of Defense would let Cannon die a slow death, when in fact, they jumped at (the chance to find a new mission),” Richardson said Monday from Washington where he discussed Cannon’s future with DoD officials.
Richardson said the fledgling team will make visits to Cannon and surrounding communities to determine the best mission for the base. Among the most viable of options is a Cannon joint training mission for Army and Air Force personnel, Richardson said.
The governor said members of the team will include retired Gen. Hanson Scott, New Mexico Director of the Office for Military Base Planning and Support, as well as Mike Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics .
Clovis base advocate Randy Harris was also present at Monday’s meeting. He said Wynne is a nominee for the Secretary of the Air Force position, a seat that has been vacant more than eight months. Once it is filled, and the assessment team begins work in November, Harris said the mission finding process will be expedited.
“I believe we will have a mission in the next six months and Cannon could be bigger and better than ever,” said Harris, traveling home from a five-day visit to Washington.
“Now, instead of us being thrown in hodgepodge with all the bases in the world, (Pentagon officials) are looking specifically at Cannon. That’s pretty powerful,” Harris said.
Efforts to reach Scott on Monday were unsuccessful.