New Mexico’s Cannon Air Force Base won’t be shut down — at least not for the next few years (HCN, 8/22/05: Leavin' on a Jet Plane). It and four other Western military installations narrowly escaped the base-closure ax.

The nine-member federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission finished its hearings on Aug. 26, voting against the Pentagon’s recommendation to completely close Cannon, near Clovis. Instead, Cannon’s F-16 fighters will move to other bases, but the base will stay open for five more years in what is called "enclave status." If the Department of Defense hasn’t found a new mission for it by then, the base will be shuttered.

The partial reprieve "means eastern New Mexico stays alive … until 2010, at the very least," said Gov. Bill Richardson on C-SPAN.

In another surprise move, the BRAC commission voted to keep South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base open. Hawthorne Army Depot in northern Nevada also escaped the recommended shutdown, and the BRAC commissioners voted to keep Nevada’s 192nd Airlift Squadron in Reno.

Utah’s Deseret Chemical Depot near Tooele will also remain open for now. The Army will determine whether the depot can be used to incinerate conventional weapons; if it can’t, the facility will be closed.

The BRAC panel recently sent its final decisions to President Bush, who has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the entire list. It then goes to Congress for approval. For more on the BRAC decisions, go to www.defenselink.mil/brac.