DOD Postpones Realignment at Base in Azores
The Pentagon will delay a planned drawdown at Lajes Field on the Portuguese island of Terceira in the Azores, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.
The move, which will shrink the current workforce of 1,100 U.S. and Portuguese personnel at the base by at least half, now will be pushed back to October 2014, reported Stars and Stripes.
“The United States military is committed to Lajes air base. … It will remain a vital part of our global forward posture,” Panetta said during a press conference.
As part of the effort to prepare for the realignment, DOD is sending a business delegation to the island to explore potential opportunities for economic development as a way to mitigate the loss of activity on the community.
The downsizing at Lajes is part of a larger force restructuring plan prompted by budgetary pressure and DOD’s strategic shift toward the Pacific region. Lajes Field, a Portuguese Air Force installation, hosts the 65th Air Base Wing, which will transition to either an air base group or air base squadron. The base provides refueling and other support to U.S. military and other aircraft flying over the Atlantic Ocean, but flight operations have dropped over the years.