The U.S. government will spend $317 million to upgrade a British base involved in overseas intelligence and drone strikes, which will make it the largest intelligence facility outside the mainland U.S.
The upgrade to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Croughton base in Southern England will make it a new center for U.S. counter terrorism activities with up to 1,250 personnel. It will help cover counter terrorism in Africa and be called Africom or Africa Command, according to the Independent.
The upgraded base will be completed in 2017 and will have a similar number of personnel and operational importance to RAF Menwith Hill, the National Security Agency (NSA) station in North Yorkshire. It will include an installation for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s primary military espionage service, and will most like be co-staffed with representatives of British intelligence, including GCHQ.
Overseas Intelligence Operations
The Independent reported that the upgrade will consolidate six U.S. Intelligence groups located at RAF Molesworth and RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire into the facility at Croughton, saving the Pentagon at least $75 million a year.
The British base is currently used as a relay station for CIA communications and is also said to be a support site for U.S. drone strikes from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, against Al-Qaida targets inside Yemen.
The Independent found last year that RAF Croughton funneled data to Washington from a global network of spy bases inside U.S. embassies, including a secret facility in Berlin alleged to have been used to listen to calls made on the mobile phone of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Yet some question the massive investment in the U.S. base in Britain. “The new spend of $317m on facilities at RAF Croughton is a shocking revelation, “said Labour MP Tom Watson, a former defense minister. “There can be no doubt now that communications activities there must be thoroughly reviewed, and arrangements governing use of the base updated.”