More Time for Lajes

The Defense Department is delaying personnel reductions at Lajes Field, Azores, by several months to October 2014 to allow for analysis of the economic impact on the local community, reported Stars and Stripes. “We will do everything we can to minimize the impact and the hardship to that community,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Jan. 15 during a press briefing with Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco in Lisbon. The Air Force in December announced plans to cut the base’s uniformed contingent by 400 personnel, along with 500 dependents, by August 2014, reducing the 65th Air Base Wing to a group to save costs—an estimated $35 million annually. Panetta said the United States would send a business delegation to Lajes to meet with the surrounding Portuguese community to discuss ways to mitigate the effect of the drawdown. The United States is “committed to Lajes,” said Panetta. “This is an important air base for us. It has important airlift capabilities. It will remain a vital part of our global forward posture,” he added. (Includes Panetta-Aguiar-Branco transcript)