But Is The Base Ready?
Despite pleas from
supporters hoping to keep Otis National Guard Base open, it perhaps
isn't surprising that the Base Realignment And Closure Commission
agreed Friday with the Pentagon's recommendation to close the Cape
Cod (MA) facility.
What does raise eyebrows, however, is where Otis's fighter jets
would call home should that decision become final.
In a move that appears -- at first glance, anyway -- to be borne
of at least some political maneuvering, and not necessarily the
military's logistical needs, Barnes Air National Guard base in
Westfield (MA) would become the new home of the 18 F-15s currently
stationed at Otis.
Trouble is, Barnes is not currently set up to handle the needs
of air-to-air fighter jets. The base is located at Barnes Municipal
Airport (BAF,) a location whose longest runway is 9,000 ft --
perfectly fine for the A-10s currently stationed there, but cutting
it close for an F-15.
Within minutes of the
BRAC vote, Massachusetts state officials talked of overturning it,
with Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly saying the fight on behalf
of Otis “is far from done.”
Those fighting to keep the base open maintain that Otis has been
a hub in the nation’s anti-terror network. The base also
launched fighters during the Sept. 11 attacks.
U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said the commission
didn’t appear to follow the law, which requires it to
consider factors including Otis’ military value and whether
shutting a base would save money or weaken homeland security.
Oliver Mason, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National
Guard, said the move would be extremely disruptive.
“We’re very disappointed. We did not expect
this,” he said.
“What we have now is some issues in front of us that
we’re going to have to deal with regarding two bases, not
Kennedy said state leaders were “baffled” by the
“They might have good reasons for it, but it defies logic,
it defies intuition, it defies understanding. It makes no sense at
all,” the Massachusetts senator said.
Otis is one of about 30 Air Guard bases slated to be closed or
downsized under the DOD plan. The panel has until Sept. 8 to send
its final report to President Bush. The president can accept it,
reject it or send it back for revisions.
If implemented, changes at all affected bases would occur over
the next six years.