Panetta: U.S. will hire 3 local workers for every American at Lajes

LISBON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is committed to hiring three local workers for every American employed at the Lajes Base on Terceira Island, Azores.

Panetta started his Europe Tour in Portugal, where he met Tuesday with Portuguese Defense Minister José Aguiar Branco in Lisbon. On the table were the U.S. plans to remove more than 400 military personnel and as many as 500 family members from the Azores base in 2014.

“The U.S. military remain connected to Lajes. It is a very important base for us and it will continue to be a vital part of our global network,” said Panetta.

Aguiar Branco said he spoke with Panetta about Portugal’s concerns that pulling troops from the base would have a serious economic impact.

Panetta said a group of U.S. businessmen is expected to visit the Lajes Base in February to assess the situation and determine what other steps the U.S. can take to reduce the economic impact.

“We will do everything possible so that the economic impact of this reduction is the lowest possible,” said the Secretary of Defense. “We will continue to support and maintain a strong relationship we have built over the years.”


LUSA and The Associated Press used in this report