Officials: Cannon transition going smoothly

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

Cannon Air Force Base’s transition from a fighter wing to a special operations wing is moving along without issues, officials said.

However, until the Secretary of the Air Force signs off on moving the 16th Special Operations Wing to Cannon — which is expected toward the end of summer — nothing is official.

A year ago Wednesday Cannon was awarded the new mission after the 27th Fighter Wing was ordered shuttered during the 2005 Base and Realignment Close.

Air Force Special Operations Command would take ownership of Cannon Oct. 1.

“We certainly haven’t seen any show stoppers,” AFSOC spokesman Matt Durham said. “We don’t anticipate there being anything to prevent us from taking over the base on 1 October.”

Air Force officials are waiting for the final approval of the Environmental Impact Statement regarding the new mission.

The proposal set forth in the EIS detailed three possibilities: One plan would involve development on one side of the base’s flight line, the second would involve development on both sides, and the third shows the impact of no action at all.

No action would have a serious negative economic impact on the region with a reduction in Cannon personnel to around 150, the statement said.

All three show a reduction in population at the base when the 27th Fighter Wing is inactivated. But under the development plans, construction at Cannon would take place in stages over approximately four years with an influx of workers to support the renovations.
When the work is completed, the EIS proposal states the base population will be around 5,000, or about a 17 percent increase over current numbers.

Under the proposals, the 16th Special Operations Wing mission would include 108 aircraft and more than 5,000 military personnel, civilians and contractors by the year 2010.

These numbers are comparable to those Cannon experienced during the F-111 mission through 1994, the study said.

“The attitude now, I think, is much more optimistic. We’re looking to the future with confidence,” said Claire Burroughes, the city of Clovis’ community development director. “We were sitting on the edge of our seats this time last year and now we have direction.”
Burroughes is working with a local Cannon growth committee to secure grants. Education and housing needs are two of the areas the committee wants to study, she said.

After Oct. 1, the community will gradually notice the new look at the base, according to 2nd Lt. George Tobias of Cannon.

“There are many moving pieces that have to come together, over time, before AFSOC’s presence here will be complete.”
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the transition is progressing well.

“We have military construction funding associated with the transition in the pipeline and we have assurances that the Special Operations takeover of the base this fall is on track,” he said.

Sometime this summer a Notice of Availability announcing the release of the Final EIS will be issued to the public. This announcement is followed by a 30-day waiting period. After the 30-day period, a Record of Decision, setting forth the Air Force’s final decision will be signed by the office of the Secretary of the Air Force, officials have said.

The Record of Decision is required to officially move AFSOC to Cannon under the current proposed plans.