Realignment of Air Force Special Operations Command Units to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico
GAO-08-244R: Published: Jan 18, 2008. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2008.
In September 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended closing Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, unless a new mission for the base could be identified by December 31, 2009. In June 2006, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) would establish a new mission at Cannon Air Force Base and the command would take ownership of the base on October 1, 2007. As a result, Cannon Air Force Base will remain open. While DOD has satisfied the intent of the recommendation by finding a new mission for the base, this BRAC recommendation was unusual because it contained a contingency clause. Therefore, we reviewed DOD's implementation of this recommendation under the authority of the Comptroller General to conduct evaluations on his own initiative. This report (1) describes the factors underpinning the decision to house AFSOC at Cannon Air Force Base and (2) provides information on the cost estimate and timeline for the movement of personnel to establish the AFSOC mission.
DOD's decision to establish an AFSOC mission at Cannon was the result of a confluence of events, chiefly, the BRAC 2005 contingency clause that provided urgency for finding a new tenant for the base and an AFSOC study pointing to Cannon Air Force Base as the best location for the AFSOC mission. In October 2005, AFSOC evaluated three alternatives to address the lack of existing capacity at Hurlburt Field and rated Cannon as most desirable. Subsequently, in response to the BRAC 2005 contingency clause, the Air Force began to look in January 2006 for another mission for Cannon Air Force Base. The Air Force solicited interest from DOD and other agencies that would consider selecting Cannon Air Force Base for their missions. According to Air Force officials, the intent was to identify a tenant that would make maximum use of the base facilities and the base's associated range, the Melrose Training Range. AFSOC was the only respondent out of six that expressed interest in using the entire base and the associated range. The remaining five planned to use portions of the base. In June 2006, DOD announced that a new AFSOC mission would be established at Cannon. Although AFSOC took ownership of Cannon Air Force Base on October 1, 2007, there is some uncertainty over the total cost and timeline of personnel growth required to establish the new mission, although AFSOC estimated the cost at about $517 million over the next 6 years at the time of our review. First, DOD has programmed about $283 million for military construction projects from fiscal year 2008 through 2013 to support the movement of units to Cannon. Second, AFSOC has identified about $233 million in additional required funding that has yet to be programmed. These funds would primarily be used to construct or modify existing mission-related facilities to accommodate aircraft that are larger and more varied than the ones previously located at the base. AFSOC originally projected that about 5,700 personnel would be moved to Cannon by the end of fiscal year 2010. However, because of funding constraints, the decision to move about 1,400 of these people is under review by DOD. Further, the expected number and pace of personnel growth may change further because AFSOC plans to bring fewer aircraft to Cannon than originally projected.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Not Implemented
Comments: The matter for Congressional consideration suggests that if Congress decides to authorize a future base closure round, it could add language to a future BRAC legislation about whether to allow a future BRAC Commission the authority to add a contingent element to a BRAC recommendation. However, until such time such legislation is enacted, we will not be in a position to report our suggested matter for Congressional consideration has been implemented.
Recommendation: If Congress decides to authorize a future base closure round, it may wish to consider whether to allow a future BRAC Commission the authority to add a contingent element to a recommendation and, if so, under what conditions.
Agency Affected: Congress