Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers
A candidate mission for Cannon Air Force Base has not been identified, despite contrary indications, a newly appointed Air Force assistant secretary said Wednesday.
“When there is an emotional issue, as this is, people often times read into statements,” William Anderson said Wednesday before he toured Cannon.
Local Cannon supporters disputed Anderson’s statement.
Reports of the candidate mission arose from a letter sent by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley, said spokespersons for Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
In the letter, Moseley writes about Cannon: “My staff is actively exploring options and has already identified one promising candidate mission.”
Information contrary to the letter has not been received by either Domenici or Bingaman, their spokespersons said Wednesday.
Cannon advocate Randy Harris, a Clovis banker, said military officials have mentioned several missions they felt were appropriate for Cannon missions. But he said he is not aware of a single identified candidate mission.
Regardless, there has been some progress in the mission-finding process.
Anderson said the data needed to pinpoint a mission for the base has already been compiled. It is now, he said, being double-checked for accuracy before it is marketed to the entire federal government. He said a mission could be realistically identified by this summer.
“The information,” he said, “will (also) be sent to installation leaders. Some may be interested, some may not.”
Anderson said he will serve as an advisor in the mission-finding process to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne, who will make a recommendation as to the future of Cannon to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Cannon was granted a reprieve from the Department of Defense list for closure by a federal commission in August. The commission promised Cannon’s three jet squadrons to various installations and requested DoD find a new mission for the base; if no mission is found by 2010, Cannon will close.
Anderson said he is committed to ensuring the timeline for finding a new mission for the base is met. The civilian, who has a long career in business rather than the military, said his Wednesday visit to Cannon would give him a clearer picture of the base and make him a better advisor regarding its future.
“What I need is my own personal gyroscope — a better visual picture in my mind — of what the base is… That is a lot easier to do when you have your boots on the ground,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s first visit to the installation was capped off by a dinner with community members and local officials, according to Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon’s Public Affairs Office.
Anderson’s visit included an escorted tour of Cannon, a mission brief, and a helicopter flight over the Melrose Bombing Range, Clovis and Portales, Kok said.
Kok said Anderson’s visit would end this morning after breakfast. The assistant secretary is visiting Kirtland Air Force Base today.
Anderson heads three division departments involved at the policy level with Air Force facility and logistical issues as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Logistics. He said his visit to Cannon also afforded him the opportunity to “shake hands with the war fighters who have done such a great job for us.”