BAGNOLI, Italy — NATO is moving its southern command from the base in Naples’ Bagnoli district that it has called home since 1954 to a new high-tech campus designed to allow for future expansion.
Allied Joint Force Command Naples is relocating to rural Lago Patria, about 10 miles away, in a significant financial and operational shift intended to make NATO more nimble.
“Our departure from Bagnoli should not be discouraging,” Adm. Bruce Clingan, commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, said during a sunset farewell ceremony Monday. ”Bagnoli will long be remembered as a place where we came together as free men and women.”
The Bagnoli base was built in the 1930s as a home for at-risk youth. During World War II, it was occupied by the Italian Fascist Youth Organization and German troops. It became a refugee center after the war, before NATO moved in.
The base oversaw surveillance of the Mediterranean basin during the Cold War after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. It helped enforce cease-fire arrangements in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. More recently, it supported operations over Libya in 2011.
The new $212 million base, which NATO owns, features new technologies that will allow NATO leaders to directly communicate and control air, sea and land forces, said U.S. Navy Capt. Ike Skelton, spokesman for the Joint Force Command. He declined to further describe the changes.
“It’s a shift in technology,” Skelton said.
During Monday’s ceremony, attended by community and military leaders, Clingan said the new base had the necessary capabilities “to respond to diverse crises.”
When it opened in 1954, the Bagnoli base had a small staff representing the 14 NATO nations. The new operations center will house more than 2,100 military personnel and 350 civilian employees from 22 nations.
The European Union Command Element, which overseas military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is also relocating to Lago Patria. It’s unclear what will happen to the Bagnoli site, which should be completely vacated by January and is owned by the Banco Di Napoli.
The Lago Patria campus features environmentally friendly designs such as shaded exteriors to limit air conditioner use, and wide windows designed to reduce the use of artificial light and excessive energy consumption. It’s been outfitted with squash, basketball and tennis courts, running paths and an outdoor Olympic-size pool. NATO slowly began moving personnel and equipment to its new offices in May.
An international school initially intended to open on the campus was canceled after it was deemed too costly. Plans for a new highway and rail link connecting to the base have seen delays.