A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, by Portuguese American Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), proposing to relocate AFRICOM’s headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, to the continental United States, with the provision that Lajes Air Field, on Terceira, Azores, be made into AFRICOM’s forward operating base.
The bill also proposes that throughout the transfer process, and until 2018, “Lajes Field continue operating 24 hours a day, at or above its 2012 levels of readiness.”
In a hearing in the House of Representatives, before the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes has stated:
“In conjunction with the transfer, the Lajes Field air base should be designated as AFRICOM’s forward operating base. Located on Portugal’s Azores island chain in mid-Atlantic, Lajes would be an exceptional staging ground for troop movements and training. Crucially, terrorist hot-spots in western Africa can all be reached from Lajes in less than five hours with few if any over-flight concerns, and ten of the eighteen African counties that hold State Department Travel Warnings can be reached within six hours.”
In a prepared statement, the President of the Government of the Azores, Vasco Cordeiro, said today that Rep. Devin Nunes’s legislative proposal is the recognition of the geostrategic importance of Lajes Air Field to the to the United States .
“This proposal, currently before the House of Representatives, regardless of its terminology, is the undeniable proof of the recognition of the geostrategic value of the Azores and, specifically, of the important position of Lajes Air Base to the United States,” he said.
Designated as the “Africa Counter Terrorism Initiative Act,” the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan for the transfer and also provide “for the relocation of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF CR) from Moron Air Base, Spain, to Lajes Field.”
According to Devin Nunes, the transfer of AFRICOM to continental United States will save $60 million to $70 million annually, will create 4,300 jobs and infuse $350 to $450 million into the local economy.
“It is in the national interest of the United States to save tens of thousands of dollars annually and to bring thousands of jobs to the United States by moving AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart to the continental Unites States, and create a dedicated forward operating base at Lajes that insures the strategic reach for AFRICOM’s operations,” he said.
In 2012, citing budgetary constraints, the US Administration had announced it was planning to downsize its military operations and personnel in the Lajes Air Field. The reduction would have saved an estimated $35 million annually.
Last December, the United States Senate had voted on a provisional measure, with a specific reference to reviewing the status of Lajes Air Field. The provisional measure recommended keeping the US military facility on Terceira island at full capacity until further notice. It also recognized the importance of the Lajes Air Field in the context of the ongoing reevaluation process of restructuring the US military presence in Europe.
Currently, Lajes Air Field, the second largest employer on Terceira island, provides refueling and other support to US military and NATO aircraft transiting over the Atlantic Ocean.
Currently, Rep. Devin Nunes represents California’s 22nd congressional district, which is located in the San Joaquin Valley and includes portions of Tulare and Fresno Counties.
AFRICOM is the result of an internal reorganization of the U.S. military command structure, creating one administrative headquarters that is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for US military relations with 53 African countries.
Read Rep. Devin Nunes full statement here.