A Congressional agreement issued on Monday may help keep US Lajes Air Field deliberations on the table. The goal is to move the process forward with the objective of extending the US military presence on Terceira island, Azores.
In a positive note, the final NDAA FY14 Bill posted Tuesday stated the following responsive pronouncement:
“The Secretary of Defense shall certify to the congressional defense committees, prior to taking any action to realign forces at Lajes Air Force Base, Azores, that the action is supported by a European Infrastructure Consolidation Assessment initiated by the Secretary of Defense on January 25, 2013. The certification shall include a specific assessment of the efficacy of Lajes Air Force Base, Azores, in support of the United States overseas force posture.”
According to the National Organization for Portuguese Americans (NOPA), which has been actively involved in lobbying elected officials on behalf of a positive outcome, “Passage is expected. It is not 100% what our community wanted, but it gives us time to make the case to keep Lajes at capacity or pursue a better option while the base is still occupied by the US.”
On June 14, the US House of Representatives had voted on and passed a bill which includes a limitation in reducing the US military presence at the Lajes Air Field, on Terceira, Azores.
The bill was expected to move for a vote in the November Senate deliberations. However, the provision included in the House of Representatives Bill, was not included in the Senate’s NDAA Bill as anticipated.”
Referring to the strategic relevance of the U.S. military presence on Terceira, for both the United States and its allies since the Cold War, it was then reiterated by the House that, “Lajes Field is a valuable asset that enables the expeditionary movement of warfighters, aircraft, ships, and global communications to AFRICOM and CENTCOM’s joint, coalition, and NATO operations.”
For more than six decades the Azores has hosted a US military presence at Lajes Air Force Base. Last year, the United States had informed the Portuguese government that the future of the Lajes Air Field was uncertain; that US Air Force was losing interest in the military facility; and that it was considering to significantly reduce its military presence on the island.
Lajes Air Field is the second largest employer on the island, employing about 700 tenured Portuguese workers and nearly 90 short-term workers. The US decision to down size the military outpost would have a significant economic impact over job losses on the island and in economy of the region.