By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Federal funds recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for Cannon Air Force Base would fully fund the base’s military construction program for the 2014 fiscal year, says a base official.
The bill that has to still pass both houses of Congress would promise $34.1 million to Cannon for construction projects, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
“The program includes three critical projects that support the special operations mission as well as Cannon (Air Force Base) airmen and their families,” said Capt. Larry van der Oord with the base’s public affairs office. “Included in the program is a new dormitory to house 144 single airmen. The dormitory is required to alleviate the shortage of adequate living quarters for the wing’s number one asset, airmen.”
Cannon’s share of the funds comes from a larger $10.7 billion budget for military projects across the nation.
Udall, a member of the Senate Military Construction subcommittee, said the legislation makes important investments in the future of New Mexico’s military bases supporting the people and communities who work there.
“My seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee gives me the best possible position to fight for New Mexico,” Udall said Monday. “Specifically, the bill includes $34.1 million for Cannon to begin construction on an airmen and family readiness center, dormitory and satellite dining facility.”
Van der Oord says when the dorm is complete, it will provide capacity for Cannon to house all of its assigned single airmen in a modern facility with upgraded amenities.
The money will also go to a new dining facility for airmen working on the southeast side of the base, van der Oord said.
“A new 1.5 million square foot C-130 parking ramp as well as several new aircraft hangars and administrative facilities are complete or under construction on the southeast side, but are isolated from services on the main base,” van der Oord said. “The new dining facility provides food service for the 2,000 airmen working on southeast side and eliminates the current eight-mile round trip to reach the main base dining facility. It will reduce travel times and will improve workplace efficiency, reduce stress and increase morale for airmen already working under high-pressure conditions.”
The last project the base will use the money for is a new Airmen and Family Readiness Center, which would provide essential services to Cannon airmen and their families.
“The mission of the Airmen and Family Readiness Center is to provide individual and family counseling, life education and advocacy, employment and career support, economic counseling, crisis intervention, support for families of deployed airmen and support for Wounded Warriors,” van der Oord said. “The current Airmen and Family Readiness Center is undersized preventing the organization from providing services at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. The construction of a new building provides increased space and amenities to maximize current services and expand support programs to Airmen and their families.”
The bill also includes a 10-Point action plan to address the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims processing backlog.
“Our veterans made great sacrifices for this nation, and they rely on the quality of the care we provide,” Udall said. “This bill provides adequate resources for our VA system and most significantly includes a detailed plan and major funding increases to address the severe backlog in claims processing affecting veterans in New Mexico and around the nation.”
Udall said now that they’ve reached the first step in process, he intends to see the bill through the Senate and work with the House.
“I’m going to keep working with my colleagues to make that happen, we need to see this bill through and get it to the president’s desk.”