Starting Saturday, February 2, a U.S. delegation will be visiting Lisbon and Terceira island to look into future business opportunities, following the recent U.S. Air Force decision to downsize its military presence on the island.
In a statement to Lusa, the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon said that, a delegation from the group Business Executives for National Security (BENS), will spend two days in Lisbon and four days in the Lajes Air Field, on Terceira.
Established in 1982, with headquarters in Washington, D.C,, BENS is a non-profit group “which supports the U.S. Government by applying pro bono, best business practice solutions to its most difficult national security problems.”
The U.S. Embassy stressed that “the results will not be immediate” but said it remained “committed to working with the government and the local community to mitigate the impact” on the local economy.
Last December, the U.S. Air Force informed the Portuguese authorities of its decision to pull out 400 military personnel and 500 family members from Lajes Air Field by the end of fiscal 2014.
Lajes Air Field, the second largest employer on the island, employs about 700 tenured Portuguese workers and nearly 90 short-term workers. U.S. civilian and local national positions will be reduced during fiscal 2014.
Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced in Lisbon that a delegation of U.S. entrepreneurs would visit Lajes Air Field, in February, to assess the situation and determine what can be done to minimize the negative impact of the U.S. downsizing on the local economy. He also said that for each U.S. personnel hired at the Lajes Air Field, three Portuguese workers would be employed.
The U.S. delegation visiting the Lajes Air Field will meet with members of the Regional Government, local civil administrators and entrepreneurs in the areas of energy, agriculture, biotechnology, marine, climate and environmental sciences.
The Lajes Air Field has about 1,100 personnel, including about 700 local nationals. The U.S. deployment includes 580 U.S. military and about 700 family members on the island, under a Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by Portugal and the USA in 1995.
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.