By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2015 – Defense Department officials today announced plans to consolidate some military infrastructure in Europe to save the U.S. government more than $500 million annually while maintaining capability and commitments.
The plans represent the culmination of the European Infrastructure Consolidation process, a two-year effort that was designed to ensure long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. presence in Europe, officials said.
The consolidation incorporates the return of 15 sites to their host nations, part of U.S. European Command’s continued effort to remove nonenduring sites from its real-property inventory and allow more resources to be focused on other Eucom mission requirements.
Not Affecting Capability
“In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Hagel discussed the decisions yesterday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Portugal — the four countries affected most by the actions.
Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs told reporters at the Pentagon today that European and trans-Atlantic security is more important than ever.
“We are not affecting our operational capability,” Chollet said. “The EIC adjustments do not diminish our ability to meet our commitments to allies and partners. In fact, these decisions will produce savings that will enable us to maintain a robust force presence in Europe.”
Throughout the process, Chollet said, the department maintained a close and consistent engagement with Congress, the State Department, the Joint Staff, the individual services, Eucom and European partners.
Divestiture of the Royal Air Force Mildenhall facility represents the largest reduction in U.S. personnel among all the actions. That base’s closure will pave the way for the stationing of two squadrons of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets at RAF Lakenheath starting in 2020, defense officials said.
The basing decisions will result in a net decrease of roughly 2,000 U.S. service members and civilians in the United Kingdom over the next several years. About 3,200 U.S. personnel will relocate from RAF Mildenhall, and that will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people who will be permanently assigned to the two F-35 squadrons slated to open at RAF Lakenheath.
Pentagon officials anticipate several hundred additional U.S. military personnel being assigned to Germany in the coming years, and about 200 more in Italy. Roughly 500 will be reassigned from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, as part of streamlining efforts approved and announced in 2012.
John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, managed the EIC effort for DoD. He said the bottom line was that the department wanted to preserve its operational capability while reducing the cost of supporting it.
Reduced Need for Support Infrastructure
“As a result, we will not need as many support personnel to maintain a reduced infrastructure, in terms of both U.S. military and civilian personnel and host-nation employees,” Conger said. “Approximately 1,200 U.S. military and civilian support positions will be eliminated, and about 6,000 more U.S. personnel will be relocated within Europe.
“Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated,” he continued, “and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years, as many of their positions are relocated to areas we need to maintain for the long term.”
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