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State Ready to Add Land for Cannon

By Miguel Navrot
Journal Staff Writer
    Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, unsure what new mission might be bound for Cannon Air Force Base, said Friday the state is primed to expand land space around the eastern New Mexico installation.
    A day after Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Mosley told the state's two senators that Cannon might soon have lifeblood, base backers discussed what they could do to help the effort.
    One proposal, suggested in August by the state, is to acquire for the Defense Department about 3,000 acres surrounding Cannon. The land, which would nearly double the base's size, would come from nearby property owners.
    "We're trying to make sure we're doing all we can," Denish said Friday following a meeting of the state Military Base Planning Commission in Albuquerque. Denish is chairwoman of the group.
    She said she anticipated no problems from area landowners about the expansion.
    This summer, Cannon's host unit, the 27th Fighter Wing, was picked to dissolve under the latest round of military base closures. The independent commission reviewing the closures suggested the military try to find a new mission for the base by 2010.
    Despite optimism from base backers over Mosley's news, few specifics about the new mission were available Friday. None of the state commissioners said they knew what mission might be headed for Cannon. Representatives from the offices of Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said they had no new information.
    Mosley spokeswoman Shirley Curry said the Air Force process had just begun and might not be completed until summer.
    Various proposals for Cannon have included a base for the Air Force's new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, advanced instruction for fighter pilots and regional combined training for air and ground forces.
    Cannon is within regional proximity of four Army bases in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, advocates say.
    The base currently houses three combat-ready F-16 Falcon fighter jet squadrons.

E-MAIL Journal Staff Writer Miguel Navrot