Congressman Pete Domenici, center, addressed community leaders about BRAC issues while in town Tuesday. State Sen. Stuart Ingle is on the left.
By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici on Tuesday lauded the importance of Cannon Air Force Base to America’s military operations and provided a short yet strong list of reasons the base should fare well in the upcoming Base Closure and Realignment process.
The proximity of Melrose Bombing Range, good weather for flying, and quality airspace are great assets that will be viewed positively by the BRAC commission in the upcoming year, the Republican said at a meeting of base community supporters at the Holiday Inn in Clovis.
“I know that BRAC is on the mind of the Cannon community, but I believe that BRAC criteria are favorable to New Mexico,” he said.
Still, Domenici said the community needs to support Cannon — especially in promoting airspace expansion in the New Mexico Training Range Initiative — to ensure its future.
The initiative seeks to expand military airspace to 3,300 square miles from 2,600 square miles and allow pilots to fly at supersonic speeds at lower altitudes. The changes would allow for training that can better emulate live combat, which would make Cannon a unique place for flight training, Domenici said.
“The Air Force must train the way it will fight, but realistic combat training at Cannon requires expanded and modified airspace,” he said.
Domenici said community leaders should help provide a high quality of life for Cannon airmen, safeguard land owned by the base and avoid encroachment, and support expanded missions at the base.
Doc Stewart, a prominent member of the Committee of 50 group that supports the base, said Domenici has been a strong advocate and promoter of Cannon.
“He is exactly right about everything he’s said about airspace, encroachment and education for the people at Cannon,” Stewart said.
Domenici said he has helped secure $32.4 million over the last four years for crucial infrastructure upgrades including but not limited to an airmen’s center, an aerospace ground equipment complex and a fire rescue station.
“He’s done all he’s could to improve this base and make it bullet-proof for BRAC,” said Marshall Stinnett, chairman of the Portales Military Affairs Committee.