On Friday, June 14, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed a bill which includes a limitation in reducing U.S. military presence at the Lajes Air Field, on Terceira, Azores. The bill now moves for a vote in the Senate.
The bill, HR 1960: The National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 , passed through the efforts of a coalition of House members which included the Congressional Portuguese American Caucus Co-Chairs and Members.
A letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Armed Services, expressing opposition to the “Lajes Field Reduction Limitation at the Lajes Air Force Based” in the Azores, stated:
“The Secretary of the Air Force may not reduce the force structure at Lajes Air Force Base, Azores, relative to the force structure at such Air Force Base as of October 1, 2013, until 30 days after the Secretary of Defense concludes the European Infrastructure Consolidation Assessment initiated by the Secretary on January 25, 2013, and briefs the congressional defense committees regarding such Assessment. Such briefing shall include a specific assessment of the efficacy of Lajes Air Force Base, Azores, in supporting the United Stated overseas force posture. “
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, the letter reiterated 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.”
On the implications of a downsizing of the U.S. military outpost on the Azores, the letter concludes, “Should a drawdown of the active duty contingent be the only choice, we do not want to make Azoreans choose between their loyalty to the United States and feeding families, essentially forcing Portugal to find a new tenant for the site. Therefore, we urge the Committee to prohibit the reduction in force structure at Lajes Field at least until European Infrastructure Consolidation Assessment is completed and allow time to explore other options to maintain a strong U.S. ally.”
The letter is signed by U.S. House Representatives Devin Nunes (R-Tulare,CA), Jim Costa (D-Fresno,CA), Bill Keating (D-Norwood,MA), David G. Valadao (R-Hanford,CA), David Ciccilline (D-Providence-RI), James P. McGovern (D-Northampton,MA), Jeff Deham (R-Hawthorne,CA) and Douh LaMalfa (R-Oroville,CA).
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The Azores (population 250,000) became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal