BOSTON – State officials announced Monday that a National Guard air base on Cape Cod (search) will not be closed by the government as originally thought.
Otis Air National Guard Base (search) "has a new lease on life," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who had fought the targeting of the installation by the federal base closing commission.
Officials said the base will retain most of its 500 jobs, although some positions will be moved across the state when an 18-plane wing of F-15 fighter jets is relocated to Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield. Barnes is still slated to lose a wing of A-10 attack aircraft.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (search) voted Aug. 26 to close Otis, along with hundreds of other military installations nationwide.
Last week, state officials filed suit week challenging the commission's vote. They argued that Guard units could not be reconfigured without prior approval of a governor, who serves as commander in chief of the units.
Over the weekend, attorneys for the governor and attorney general's offices analyzed the commission's formal recommendations on the base closings that had been forwarded to President Bush last Thursday.
They detected that the commission had changed its recommendation on Otis from "closure" to "realignment."
State officials said Monday they believed the commission's reversal came as a result of the suit.
But a commission spokesman said the change was actually made later at the Aug. 26 session — with no notice given to the governor, the state's two U.S. senators, its congressional delegation or the news media.
The state also filed a federal lawsuit to block the closure — but the commission never corrected the state's understanding of the decision, spokesman Robert McCreary maintained.
Both Gov. Mitt Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom and aides to Kennedy and Attorney General Tom Reilly disputed McCreary's explanation.
They said conversations they had with the base closing staff during the week after the commission meeting confirmed that the board had voted to close the base.