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Navy to close last facility in U.K. by May

By CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 17, 2009

The U.S. Navy will close its last remaining facility in the United Kingdom by May, officials said this week.

The "disestablishment" of the Joint Maritime Facility at RAF St. Mawgan in southwest England is expected to save the Navy $9 million annually, according to U.S. European Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker.

The facility, which will be returned to the British government, employs 300 U.S. sailors, 45 British troops and 100 civilian personnel from both governments, Barker said.

Known as the JMF, the command is part of the Navy’s Integrated Underseas Surveillance System. The program detects, tracks and reports information on submarines and oceanographic and geological occurrences and includes two other sites at Dam Neck, Va., and Whidbey Island, Wash.

The England operation — staffed by U.S. and British naval forces since its inception in 1995 — will move to Dam Neck, according to Lt. j.g. Elizabeth A. Sokolowich, spokeswoman for the Integrated Underseas Surveillance System.

The move will include the transfer of an undetermined number of British forces to continue the facility’s specific role as "a direct link between U.S. and U.K. maritime forces," she said.

"The mission will not change," said Sokolowich, adding that the program’s area of operation is classified.

RAF St. Mawgan — located just outside Newquay in the region known as Cornwall — is a British air base, which also houses the U.K. Defence Survival Training Organization. The British military transferred authority for the U.S.-built runway there to the local government in Cornwall late last year. British military officials Friday declined further comment on the closure.

The closure at St. Mawgan will mark the end of the Navy’s presence in England, where sailors have been stationed since World War II. The pinnacle of the service’s drawdown in the U.K. came when Naval Forces Europe moved its headquarters from London to Naples, Italy, in 2005. Since then, a series of naval installations, schools and support sites have shut down.

According to Defense Department personnel records, U.S. naval forces in Europe dropped from about 12,000 in June 2004 to about 5,000 in June 2008.


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