The United States Lajes airbase on the Azorean island of Terceira is to remain fully operational until at least late on this year with a final decision dependent on the outcome of negotiations over the military budget.
Legislation approved by the US Congress on Friday states that absolutely no action may be taken on the Lajes airbase until the Senate passes the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act, which is not expected until the other side of summer, and a review of the American military presence in Europe.
The legislation stipulates that "the Air Force Secretary should not reduce the Lajes airbase until 30 days after the Defence Secretary concludes the European Structures Consolidation Report," expected by year-end.
Francisco Semião, the President of the National Organization of Portuguese Americans confirmed to Lusa that members of the Portuguese Caucus had been "lobbying behind the scenes."
Eight members signed a letter addressed to Congressmen Howard P. Buck McKeon and Adam Smith, responsible for the defence budget, which stressed the case for the Azorean military base.
Not only pointing out how Portugal had never denied permission for operational usage, the letter emphasised the sheer cost of building an infrastructure such as that on Lajes but also how Portugal would effectively be forced into seeking another tenant should the United States withdraw.
The letter was signed by Devin Nunes, Jim Costa, David G. Valadão, Bill Keating, David Cicciline, James C. McGovern, Jeff Denham and Doug LaMalfa.
This turnaround now also means that the aforementioned European Structures Consolidation Report is to include “specific analysis on the efficiencies in effect at the Lajes air base, in the Azores, in supporting American troops serving abroad."