Panetta was en route Monday to Portugal, where he is expected to talk to defense officials about the U.S. plans to reduce its presence at the Lajes military base in the Azores islands. The cutbacks would remove more than 400 military personnel and as many as 500 family members from the base in 2014. It is expected that the Air Force service members that remain would serve yearlong tours and would not be accompanied by their families.
Panetta said he wants to talk to officials in Portugal about expanding military relations with the U.S., including more military exercises.
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.
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