Mission team to visit Cannon

Staff and Wire Reports

An eight-member Air Force team will visit Cannon Air Force Base next week to begin evaluating possible new missions for the base, officials said on Tuesday.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission rejected the Pentagon’s proposal in August to close the base, opting instead to keep it open temporarily. Cannon’s three F-16 squadrons will be moved, and the base would close if a new mission can’t be found by Dec. 31, 2009.

The New Mexico congressional delegation then wrote to the Pentagon asking officials to visit the base. The team is scheduled to visit Cannon on Tuesday and stay until Dec. 2. Team members also will meet with Clovis and Portales community leaders.

Local Cannon advocate Randy Harris said he will attend the site visit.

“This is what we’ve asked for for so long,” Harris said. “That a team come and evaluate Cannon. Anyone who comes to Cannon Air Force Base will leave as a proponent of the base because it sells itself.”

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the visit is a sure sign the Pentagon is taking seriously the congressional delegation’s push for a new mission.

“There is no question that the base’s physical and air space assets, along with strong community support, can be put to use by the Defense Department,” he said. “I believe this evaluation team will learn that firsthand next week.”

Last week, Congress agreed to language that ensures construction projects continue at Cannon as the Pentagon seeks a new mission.

Without the language that addressed Cannon’s status, funding would not have been obligated for bases and programs closed or realigned during this year’s BRAC process.