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The Martha's Vineyard Times September 1, 2005

CG pledges continued S&R from Otis despite closure

By David Irland

On Friday the federal Base Realignment And Closure Commission (BRAC) announced the closure of the Otis Air National Guard Base, located on the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) on Cape Cod.

In the wake of the BRAC announcement, the First District of the United States Coast Guard sent out a short press release.

“The Coast Guard will continue to provide search and rescue coverage to New England’s mariners and provide air support for Coast Guard missions throughout the region,” said the release.

The Coast Guard release added, “Keeping the Coast Guard air station and other units located at the Massachusetts Military Reservation remains one of various options that will be evaluated.”

In the months leading up to the BRAC decision, Congressman William Delahunt had sought local support against a base closure by warning that Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod operations would be affected by any base closure and could even be transferred out of state.

The process of closing Otis is expected to take three years, and ultimately leave the Coast Guard Air Wing without co-tenants at the sprawling 22,000-acre MMR compound.

Coast Guard spokesperson Kelly Newlin said Tuesday that the Coast Guard is not making plans to leave Cape Cod. “Right now we’re just evaluating what it is that we’re going to do, whether we’re going to stay or whether we’re going to move, and while we’re making these evaluations we’re working with our DOD (Department of Defense) partners,” Ms. Newlin said, referring to the Coast Guard’s fellow tenants of the MMR, specifically the Otis Air National Guard, with whom they share facilities.

Ms. Newlin did say that the Otis Air National Guard provides the Coast Guard with their utilities and runway maintenance, but that there were no solid figures as to the extra cost the Coast Guard will incur once the military pulls out of the MMR. Much of Congressman Delahunt’s argument to BRAC for keeping Otis open was based on the figure of 17 million dollars per year extra the Coast Guard would have to obtain to continue operations, along with an additional 100 personnel, figures so far unsubstantiated by any Coast Guard spokesperson.

Ms. Newlin said, “moving is not the only possibility. We could always stay. It’s just a process just to figure out what’s best for us. Right now where we’re located it’s an optimal location for us to carry out our missions. It’s a great place and if we don’t have to move we’re not going to, but we are going to have to evaluate that.”

Settled for military uses as long ago as 1911, the MMR now takes up approximately 30 square miles. The southern part of the reservation, around 5,500 acres, is where the runways, maintenance areas, access roads, housing, and support facilities for the Coast Guard, Army National Guard, and the Otis Air National Guard are located, according to the web site globalsecurity.org.

Copyright 2005, The Martha's Vineyard Times