The Department of Defense announced today the consolidation of some U.S. infrastructure in Europe, including the return of 15 sites to their host nations. These actions, taken as part of the European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) process, will save the U.S. government approximately $500 million annually. The DoD also announced the first F-35 basing in Europe at RAF Lakenheath, UK, which will bring new opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and UK air forces.
These actions will result in a slight decrease in our force levels, but will also ensure they are most effectively positioned to enable the U.S. and our NATO allies to respond quickly to crises worldwide. Additionally, these actions will result in the greater efficiency and effectiveness of our presence in Europe by reducing the U.S. footprint while ensuring that the infrastructure in place will continue – now and into the future – to sustain U.S. interests and support our partners in the region.
"As part of an overall restructuring of our basing in Europe, we have been working with our allies to reposition thousands of our military and civilian personnel within the region," said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. "I know that this will result in a reduction in size of our local host nation workforces at some locations; I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades and continue to provide today. 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."
The administration asked for, and received, congressional approval for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), a total of $985 million for DoD, which will: enhance a U.S. rotational presence in Europe for training, exercises, and other NATO activities; implement infrastructure improvement projects to support the increase military presence by the U.S. and other allies in eastern Europe; pre-position U.S. assets in Europe; and enable the United States to build the capacity of our newer allies as well as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
The Air Force will permanently base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Europe. After a considered and deliberative process, RAF Lakenheath, UK, was selected as the first location in Europe to host the F-35. This decision reflects the closeness of the U.S.-UK defense relationship and the military value of basing in the UK. The first aircraft are scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in 2020.
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act required the DoD to use the EIC process to validate the Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal streamline efforts, previously approved and announced in 2012. The DoD has concluded the Lajes streamlining process should continue, and is expected to complete by the fall of 2015. The Air Force originally chose to streamline U.S. operations on Lajes as the current presence exceeds requirements to support transiting aircraft. The Air Force will adjust the size of the unit to reflect the level of support required while keeping forces at the installation.
The EIC and F-35 basing decisions will result in a net decrease of approximately 2,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel in the UK over the next several years. This loss is primarily due to the removal of about 3,200 U.S. personnel from RAF Mildenhall, which will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 U.S. military personnel who will be permanently stationed alongside the two F-35 squadrons going to RAF Lakenheath. The presence of U.S. F-35s at RAF Lakenheath will deepen our already close partnership and offer new opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and UK. In Germany, various U.S. units will come and go during the next several years, with a final anticipated increase of several hundred U.S. military personnel assigned there, as the DoD consolidate forces so they are best positioned for future needs. In Italy, the DoD will add approximately 200 military positions, after the 606th Air Control Squadron relocates there from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. In Portugal, there will be a decrease of approximately 500 U.S. military and civilian personnel at Lajes Field in the Azores, necessary for our consolidation efforts in Europe.
The 15 site returns are part of U.S. European Command’s continued effort to remove non-enduring sites from its real-property inventory, and allow more resources to be focused on other U.S. European Command mission requirements. These infrastructure adjustments represent the culmination of the EIC review.
Based on the EIC conclusions, the following sites are scheduled to be consolidated or returned to the host nation over the next several years:
For further information about these actions, please contact U.S. European Command at +49 (0) 711-680-6868.