Will future of US air base at Mildenhall come under the spotlight again?
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The future of RAF Mildenhall could once again be under the microscope after Joe Biden’s election as US president – but any final decision will be years away, political leaders believe.
Under President Obama in 2015, when Mr Biden was vice-president, it was announced that the US air base would close in 2023 - with its functions being transferred to bases in Germany and Oxfordshire.
The American airbase at Lakenheath would have been expanded under those proposals.
However, two years ago it was revealed the closure would take longer than planned.
At the start of this year, the US Air Force said the base would remain open until at least 2027.
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In June, President Trump had a dispute with the German government over its contribution to NATO and announced that 12,000 US service personnel would be transferred from Germany to other European countries.
At that time, the US Defense Department said there were no plans to close Mildenhall – leading to considerable relief among Suffolk business and council leaders.
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The two bases are estimated to bring £700million a year to the area’s economy.
However, West Suffolk council leader John Griffiths said he and his colleagues were aware that the change at the White House could raise fresh questions over Mildenhall’s future.
Yet he believes it could be some time before the US looked at it again.
“Many of us may be wondering if there will be a change – but to be honest there is nothing that we can say at the moment,” he said.
“Any change to the position is likely to be some way off and all we can do is watch what is happening and keep in touch with the base authorities.
“We are in regular contact with them and they keep us very up to date – that’s all we can do but I don’t really expect anything new to come through in the near future.”
Mildenhall has about 2,500 military and civilian personnel at the base, whose spending power is vital for the Suffolk economy.
It also employs many local people and relies on East Anglian suppliers.
Lakenheath has about 4,500 people based there – and between them, the two sites are a major cornerstone of the West Suffolk economy.
As such, events in US politics are followed closely by many people living in the area.