The Defense Department of Defenseis seeking an agreement that would allow Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa to be permanently stationed in Morón, Spain, according to a report from the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The Jan. 5 story cites a December letter from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to unnamed Spanish officials asking for a redraft of the current year-to-year agreement. If approved, the paper reported, the new agreement would pave the way for as many as 3,000 U.S. troops to be stationed at Morón Air Base, in the southern region of Andalusia, which that now houses the task force.
A spokeswoman for the office of the Secretary of Defense, Air Force Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman, A spokeswoman for the office of the defense secretary Secretary of Defense, would not confirm nor deny the existence of the letter.
"We have nothing new to release on Spain at this time," she said.
The U.S. has used the base through a bilateral agreement since the 1950s.
The most recent update to this treaty for the Marine Corps was the Spanish government's March 2014 decision to allow an additional 300 Marines to be based in Morón, bringing total task force strength to 850. That decision also extended the unit's presence on the base for another year.
El Pais reports that the current agreement is due to expire in April 2014, meaning the Marines must move if terms cannot be reached in the reported negotiations.
The last rotation of SP-MAGTF-CR-AF, led by 8th Marine Regiment, assisted in the creation of three austere staging locations in West Africa — Senegal, Ghana and Gabon — designed to allow Marines with the unit to preposition in the event of an impending crisis. But these locations lack the infrastructure needed to house troops long-term.
Other Marine brass have cited the possibility of establishing a more substantial base on the continent.
Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, deputy to the commander for military operations in U.S. Africa Command, told Marine Corps Times in 2014 that the Marines were examining the merits of forward-basing crisis response Marines in an African host nation, which would bring with it the benefit of being significantly closer to potential crises.
U.S. Africa Command officials have said discussion of future Africa bases is predecisional.