All parties agree: Cannon ‘high priority’

Marlena Hartz : Freedom Newspapers

Has the Air Force identified a “promising candidate mission” for Cannon Air Force Base or not?

Apparently not, Air Force officials said this week.

Last month’s reference to the “promising candidate mission” for Cannon was part of a draft letter from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley. However, the reference was not included in the “official” letter Moseley later sent to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a spokesperson for Moseley said.

Maj. Glen Roberts said the draft letter was composed by Air Force staff.

William Anderson, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, said Wednesday that Air Force officials have not identified a specific mission for Cannon.

Contents of the draft letter from Moseley were released to the media on Dec. 8 via briefings from New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman.

Roberts said that draft letter was “pre-decisional.” He declined to say “one way or another” whether a candidate mission had ever been identified by Moseley.

“The signed letter stands on its own. There is nothing else to say other than what’s in the letter,” Roberts said.

“The intent of the letter signed by Moseley is to convey the high priority the Air Force places on finding a candidate mission for Cannon Air Force Base. That letter accurately reflects (that).”

Despite lack of word about one specific mission identified for Cannon, base supporters said they remain optimistic about its future.

“It would be very surprising if they didn’t come up with a new mission,” said a Bingaman spokesperson, Jude McCartin. Her statement was echoed by Domenici spokesperson Matt Letourneau.

Cannon lobbyist Randy Harris said not one but several missions have been tentatively identified for the base. The draft letter reflected one mission the Air Force has been considering, he said.

But Air Force and Department of Defense officials must adhere to a formal process in which all federal government entities will be given access to an overview of the base and can voice interest in operating at Cannon before a list of interested parties is whittled down, Harris said.

“Everybody in the community is asking, ‘What’s the mission? What’s the mission?’ The mission right now is to allow the secretary of defense to identify all the different types of mission that could come to Cannon and then select the one that fully utilizes Cannon and makes it as big or bigger than it is today,” Harris said.

That puts Cannon in a better position than most military installations in the United States, he said.

“What other base in the United States has the opportunity to plan for the next 20 or 50 years like this?”

Cannon was chosen by the Department of Defense for closure this spring, but it was removed from the list by a federal commission designed to be an independent voice in the federal Base Realignment and Closure process. Three jet squadrons at Cannon were promised to various installations around the country, while DoD officials were asked to find a new mission for Cannon. If no mission is identified by those officials, the base will close by 2010 in accordance with the Commission’s decree.

Comparison of Letters
Officials said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley sent the letter at top to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. A draft letter, at bottom, was composed by Air Force staff.

Official Letter
HQ USAF/CC
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman, Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-6028

Dear Mr. Chairman

I am writing to inform you of Air Force efforts pursuant to Section 8067 of the Senate report accompanying H.R. 2863, specifically as it applies to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The Air Force is committed to achieving full compliance with both the language of Section 8067 and the directives of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. With regard to Cannon AFB, a thorough and comprehensive reuse study is underway and will be accomplished with all appropriate speed. I believe it possible the Air Force may establish a new mission for Cannon AFB in due course. My staff is exploring options and I am personally monitoring their progress. I will keep you fully informed as this effort proceeds and I look forward to a rapid resolution resolving this issue.

The United States Air Force appreciates the close tie the people of New Mexico enjoy with Cannon Air Force Base. The Air Force will work with the local community to develop a plan that incorporates their desire and expectations. I assure you no units or aircraft will be transferred from Cannon Air Force Base prior to Secretary of Defense certification as specified in Section 8067. At present, I do not envision transfer of any 27th Fighter Wing aircraft in FY 06.

Thank you for your continued strong support of the United States Air Force programs. Your leadership has been instrumental in ensuring the United States remains the world’s premier air and space force. As always, I stand ready to assist you in any way possible.

Very Respectfully,
T. Michael Moseley
General, USAF Chief of Staff

Draft Letter
I am writing to inform you of the Air Force efforts pursuant to Section 8067 of House Report 2863, specifically as it applies to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

I assure you the Air Force is committed to achieving full compliance with both the language of Section 8067 and the directives of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. As such, the Air Force is working to establish a new mission for Cannon AFB as rapidly as possible. My staff is actively exploring options and has already identified one promising candidate mission. I have directed them to accelerate a feasibility determination, and if favorable, expedite subsequent implementation actions. I am personally monitoring their progress and will keep you fully informed as this effort proceeds. I look forward to rapidly resolving this issue.

The Air Force appreciates the close tie the people of New Mexico enjoy with Cannon AFB. My team will work with the local community to develop a plan that incorporates their desires and expectations. I assure you no units or aircraft will be transferred from Cannon Air Force Base prior to Secretary of Defense certification as specified in Section 8067. I do not envision transfer of 27 FW in FY 06.

Thank you for your continued support of Air Force programs. Your leadership has been instrumental in ensuring the United States Air Force remains the world’s premier air and space force. As always, I stand ready to assist you in any way possible.