LISBON — The Pentagon’s era of austerity is starting to pinch some remote corners of the globe, including a volcanic island in the mid-Atlantic.
The U.S. military has decided to greatly scale down Lajes Field, an air base in the Azores Islands that for decades has served as a refueling station and rest stop for long-haul flights. Almost 1,000 U.S. troops and their family members will come home by the end of next year, leaving behind a bare-bones crew to service the occasional flyby.
The move will save an estimated $350 million over a decade, a tiny fraction of the $500 billion in cuts the Pentagon must make during that same period. But ripple effects are already being felt in the Azores, a Portuguese territory, where 700 civilians depend on the base for their livelihoods.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta got a polite earful Tuesday from the NATO ally, which pressed him to delay the drawdown as long as possible and to do whatever he could to save jobs.