Despite the downsizing process of 2015, the US ambassador has told the press this Tuesday that the Lajes military base is still "fundamental" for the security of the Atlantic.
The US ambassador in Lisbon, George Glass, told Lusa that the base at Lajes, in the Azores, was “fundamental” to security in the Atlantic and said that the size of the missions there had been increasing.
During a visit to the Monte Real Air Base in Leiria district, Glass said he was confident that the US military airbase on Terceira island would continue in operation.
In 2015, the base underwent a downsizing that led to the elimination of hundreds of local jobs, including voluntary redundancy for some 400 Portuguese officials.
“Lajes is fundamental to what we do and to maintain security in the Atlantic,” said the ambassador. “It is increasing in [terms of the] size of its missions and has been a tremendous success in the last 18 months since I arrived.”
Asked about the process to decontaminate soils and aquifers in the area that the US air force has committed to, Glass said that the US authorities are working methodically to finish the work.
“We have already completed [work in] six places [and] we will conclude another two and now there remains a handful,” he said, adding that the Azores regional government should “make an announcement soon” on the matter.
At issue is the contamination of soils and aquifers in the Praia da Vitória municipality, where the base is located, which was identified in 2005 by US officials themselves and confirmed in 2009 by Portugal’s National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC), which has been monitoring the decontamination process since 2012.
Glass spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to a detachment of some 300 US military personnel stationed at Monte Real.
“This is a tremendous example of how two countries can work together, something we experience in Lajes every day,” the ambassador said, adding that there is potential for still stronger cooperation between Portugal and the US.