BRAC commission will begin deliberations Wednesday

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The stage is set and, in a matter of days, so will be the fate of Cannon Air Force Base. The nine members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will enter into final BRAC deliberations on Wednesday. The nine-member team is expected to complete their work — deciding which military installations will be closed — in four days.

The deliberations will be held in the Regency Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City hotel, in Arlington, Va. They will be televised on C-Span 2, (Clovis channel 11). Those tuning in will know if Cannon will close or remain open the moment the vote is cast, according to BRAC Deputy Director of Communications Robert McCreary.

Five of the nine commissioners must vote to remove a base from the original BRAC list. The list then moves on Sept. 8 to the president, who holds the power to accept or reject the entire list, but cannot add or delete any bases.

“There is no specific outline about which bases will go at which time,” said McCreary. Deliberations, he said, will start promptly at 8 a.m. Wednesday, and could potentially stretch into the early hours of the next day. Although deliberations are slated to end Saturday, McCreary said that date could be pushed forward.

Analysts assigned to research and compile installation information will give short presentations on each major base slated for alignment or closure, McCreary said. Immediately following, the commissioners will vote to shutter or keep that base.

Two commissioners, former Reps. James Bilbray of Nevada and James Hansen of Utah, previously indicated they would recuse themselves from a vote on Cannon. McCreary said recusals are granted individually, and usually center around conflicts of interest. The recusals, said McCreary, do not alter the number of commissioners, five, needed for a fate sealing vote.

Tuesday marks the official cutoff for new information to be presented to the Commission, McCreary said.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us still, but things are moving along. The commissioners are deeply appreciative of the great amount of perspective that the communities have been able to provide and the input that has been made to date. They are now just in the process of synthesizing that information,” BRAC Director of Communications James Schaefer said Thursday afternoon.

Cannon supporter Chad Lydick, who addressed the Commission June 24 on the economics of a Cannon closure, said he will be relieved when the final Cannon BRAC vote is cast.

“It’s been a continual rollercoaster,” said Lydick, who will stay in the Crystal City hotel to hear final BRAC deliberations. “Depending on who we talked to, some days were real positive, some days were not.”

Some of his own BRAC questions, Lydick said, remain unanswered.

“The Air Force never released all the data they used to come up with Cannon’s military value,” Lydick said, thus leaving the team unable to explain disparities between local and Air Force assessments of Cannon’s military value.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., active throughout the BRAC process, said, he too, is looking forward to this week’s deliberations.

“Just as all of the community has been proud and has had a great deal of pride in Cannon … they should be proud of their effort to retain it. They have done everything possible (to save Cannon) and I myself have done everything I can do. … Together, we can look forward to a win, meaning that we will have Cannon with us for a long time to come.”

“I am glad,” the senator said, “that the decision date is at hand.”

• What: Base Realignment and Closure Commission, final deliberations.
• Where: Washington, D.C.
• When: Thursday, 6 a.m. local time.
• Television information: Broadcast live on C-Span 2. The network has planned three days of coverage, starting at 6 a.m. Thursday and Friday as well.
• C-Span 2 channels: Cox Cable (Clovis) channel 11, Comcast Cable (Portales) channel 46, Dish Network channel 212, DirecTV channel 351.

The BRAC final deliberation agenda:
• consider BRAC Commission additions to the list
• Army considerations
• Navy considerations
• Air Force considerations
• Joint Cross Service considerations
• Completion of administrative details