State officials and congressional delegates claimed victory and expressed relief this week about a recently released report that indicates Otis Air National Guard Base on the Cape will remain open.

The report also appears to secure the fate of the Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, which has shared the Massachusetts Military Reservation airfield with Otis since the late 1970s and provides rescues and medical evacuations on and around the Vineyard.

"Obviously for the Coast Guard and for everybody on the Cape and Islands, this a very big day," Mark Forest, an aide to Cong. William Delahunt, said this week.

Otis was one of almost 200 military facilities across the country that the U.S. Department of Defense wanted to close as part of a sweeping cost-cutting measure proposed in May. But in its final report sent to President George W. Bush last week, the independent federal commission charged with reviewing the Pentagon's requests recommended that Otis be realigned instead of closed.

The realignment recommendation appeared to depart from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's vote of Aug. 26, which was widely understood to recommend closing the Otis base.

Commission representatives said this week that the recommendation was changed later that day in August, but some state officials said they believe the change was due in part to a lawsuit filed against the federal government after the August vote by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly. Congressman Delahunt also authored a letter to the commission requesting clarifying language that may have caused the changes in the report.

Regardless, the final report of the commission - which recommends realignment, not closure, for Otis - is what President Bush and U.S. Congress will consider.

The final report still recommended that the fleet of F-15 fighters at Otis be redeployed to an air base in western Massachusetts, though it noted that other combat and communications squadrons will remain at the Cape location. State officials said that the overall force level at Otis could increase in the future if it is assigned a new mission, such as becoming a regional homeland security training center.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission saved a number of other major bases in New England that had been slated for closure by the Pentagon, including a submarine base in Connecticut and a naval shipyard in Maine.

The Otis decision also appears to save the Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, which is responsible for homeland security and search-and-rescue missions along the entire New England coast.

It had been unclear whether the Coast Guard could afford to operate its Cape complex without the large in-kind contributions of the Otis base. A Coast Guard review concluded it would cost an additional $17 million every year to run the airfield alone - money the Coast Guard does not have.

The Vineyard, Nantucket and Gosnold all depend on the Coast Guard to provide rescues and medical evacuations in difficult weather conditions that prevent the operation of commercial medical evacuation flights.

According to the Coast Guard, the Vineyard hospital last year called for 375 air evacuations. Almost 10 per cent of those transports - 34 cases - were handled by the Coast Guard, which has evacuated increasing numbers of people from the Island every year since 2000.