June 9, 2011 / 9:34 AM / 7 years ago

NATO to close bases in economy, efficiency drive

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen briefs the media during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO, in the midst of extended air strikes in Libya, will trim the number of its major bases from 11 to seven to cut costs and duplication, the alliance said on Thursday.

The move, which will include the closure of the joint force command in Lisbon — one of three such installations — and transforming the air base at Izmir in Turkey into a land command, would cut more than 4,000 posts.

Land bases at Heidelberg in Germany and Madrid will close, as will a naval base at Naples in Italy.

As compensation to Portugal for the loss of the Lisbon base, it will be the location for a deployable naval headquarters, NATO officials said.

Joint command headquarters will remain at Brunssum in the Netherlands and at Naples in Italy, while the main maritime headquarters will be at Northwood in Britain and the main air command at Ramstein in Germany.

In announcing the agreement, reached at a meeting of NATO defence ministers on Wednesday night, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it would make the 28-nation alliance “leaner, more flexible,” as well as “more affordable.”

A NATO statement said the reforms would mean a reduction in headquarters posts from 13,000 to 8,800.

The reforms will also see a reduction in the number of NATO agencies responsible for specific areas such as ground surveillance and strategic airlift from 14 to 4, three of which will be located in Belgium and one in Luxembourg.

The reforms come at a time when defence budgets throughout the Western world are under pressure due to the global economic crunch.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Mark Heinrich

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