Cannon impact study getting final review

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The wait to find out the future of Cannon Air Force Base is about over.

The Secretary of the Air Force is expected to review proposed changes at Cannon this week as part of the base’s switch to Air Force Special Operations Command.

Today marks the end of a 30-day public comment period on the final draft of the Environmental Impact Statement, the last hurdle in the 16th Special Operations Wing being placed at Cannon.

AFSOC is scheduled to assume command of Cannon Oct. 1.

Cannon was awarded the new mission in June 2006 after the 27th Fighter Wing was ordered shuttered during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations.

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

Review of the final EIS is expected to begin Monday, AFSOC spokeswoman Denise Boyd said.

“Everything we’ve been doing for the past year have been proposals but nothing could be firm,” she said.

There has been no indication of problems or issues that would prevent the authorization, she said.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said she is not aware of anything that will stall or prevent the authorization.

“We feel good about what we’ve seen,” Jude McCartin said Friday.

Boyd said AFSOC is anxious for the authorization to happen.

“It means that we can start doing things here at Cannon faster. Plans are fine and proposals are fine, but we’re in a waiting game,” she said.

“We can’t make decisions or take bids. Once we have (the Record of Decision) signed, we can start notifying people that we intend to move here from other organizations officially. Those kinds of things can’t happen until the ROD is signed — we’re ready.”

Boyd said Air Force Command has three options in the EIS approval process:
Sign the proposal as it stands, authorizing AFSOC to pursue its proposals.
Propose modifications with impact that is equal to or lesser than the proposals set forth in the EIS.
Deny the proposed actions and place Cannon into an enclave status as a holding under AFSOC command.

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.

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