Congress to finalize base closures

Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission report will likely be finalized Wednesday by Congress, officially ending the latest BRAC process, according to local base advocates and New Mexico delegation spokespersons.

Congress has 45 days from the day it receives the report from the president to enact a joint resolution to reject the report in full, or the report becomes law, according to Web site www.brac.gov. That 45-day period ends Wednesday, according to New Mexico delegation spokespersons and Cannon Air Force Base advocates
The House overwhelmingly refused in late October to veto the final report of the base-closing commission.

Because the report of bases slated for realignment and closure did not find opposition in the House, the Senate will likely not oppose it either, said Jude McCartin, spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

“At this point, it is not likely that Congress will undo (the report). The only thing that is left is for the report to be finalized,” McCartin said.

The finalization of the BRAC list, said Matt Letourneau, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., is a “foregone conclusion.”

However, New Mexico delegates still have their eye on the prize — finding a new mission for Cannon.

“(Bingaman) is hopeful that the Air Force will find a new mission for Cannon. (The New Mexico delegation) has been planning since August and before that, making sure the base has all the tools it needed to remain open,” McCartin said.

Local base advocate Randy Harris said the end of the legislative BRAC process bodes well for the future of Cannon, since only when the report becomes law can the decrees of the list be acted upon.

The BRAC Commission voted to strip Cannon of its F-16s, but directed the Department of Defense to look for a new Cannon mission. It appears that will happen, said Letourneau, McCartin, and Harris.

“It helps everyone that is working (on finding a mission for Cannon) because when the BRAC legislation becomes law, everybody knows what they are dealing with. There is no unknown. It helps us work toward what we want to accomplish,” Harris said.

McCartin said Congress may also vote on a defense spending bill sometime this week. The Senate draft of the bill includes language that would keep assets at Cannon Air Force Base until a new Cannon mission is found.