The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced Thursday that the country’s armed forces will no longer use 15 military bases across Europe in a major restructuring of its military presence in the region, helping Washington save about $500 million a year. Although the move is expected to reduce the number of troops at some locations, the U.S. hopes it will eventually strengthen the country’s military capabilities in Europe by allowing it to use its resources more effectively.
The U.S. currently has about 66,000 troops deployed in Europe. However, this number will not be affected by the latest overhaul of the armed forces as the U.S. will continue a rotational presence of its troops in Europe for training and other NATO activities. The countries that will see partial and full closures of the bases include UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.
“I know that this will result in a reduction in size of our local host nation workforces at some locations,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement, acknowledging that the move could result in job losses. He added that the overall restructuring of the military bases in Europe also include repositioning of thousands of U.S. troops and civilian personnel within the region in the near future.
“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,” Hagel said.
In addition to returning the 15 sites to their host nations, the DoD also announced the first F-35 aircraft base in Europe at Royal Air Force station (RAF) Lakenheath. The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in 2020.
According to the DoD, the move will result in a net reduction of about 2,000 U.S. personnel in the UK over the next several years. The loss is primarily due to the removal of about 3,200 U.S. personnel from RAF Mildenhall, which has been an important base for the U.S. since the early 1950s when it accommodated strategic bombers, BBC News reported.
“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,” John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, said in a statement. “Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years.”