On a positive note, the United States Senate has voted Thursday a measure with a specific reference to the Lajes Air Field, on Terceira island Azores. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.
The bi-partisan measure, which passed the Senate with 84 votes in favor and 15 votes in opposition, had passed Congress last week with 350 votes in favor and 69 votes in opposition.
Containing a provision to the Lajes Air Force Base in the Azores, the measure will keep the US military facility at full capacity until further notice, reflecting the intent of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for the fiscal year of 2014, to recognize the importance Lajes Air Field in the context of the reevaluation process toward the restructuring of the US military presence in Europe.
In 2012, citing budgetary constraints, the Pentagon had announced it was planning a major downsizing in U.S. military operations and personnel at Lajes Air Field. Plans were called for a cut in the current workforce of 1,100 U.S. and Portuguese personnel to about half. The reduction would have saved an estimated $35 million annually.
The Lajes Air Field, one of seven main operating bases under US Air Forces in Europe, would lose more than 400 military personnel and 500 family members. The decision could significantly affect the local economy, since more than 700 Portuguese civil workers at the US air field would lose their jobs. The US base is the island’s second largest employer.
The downsizing would be the most significant reduction announced so far for the Air Force in Europe, where the Pentagon has announced it would also eliminate two Army infantry brigades in Germany and two Air Force squadrons in Europe, the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
The Lajes Air Field provides refueling and other support to U.S. military and NATO aircraft and crewmembers transiting over the Atlantic Ocean.
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