Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement guides U.S., Turkish partnership at Incirlik Air Base

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In 1955 the Turkish government agreed to host a large-scale U.S. Air Force presence alongside its own Turkish air forces on Incirlik Air Base, and since then both nations have been fostering their NATO partnership with various bilateral agreements. One of the most prominent agreements is the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA).

“Incirlik Air Base is owned by the Turkish government, and the 39th Air Base Wing remains committed to our partnership with Türkiye, and one of the most significant means of supporting our host nation is by participating in an annual DECA inspection,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin M Lord, 39th ABW commander.

“The DECA inspection drives conversation and improves cooperation between the American and Turkish air forces here,” said Mehmet Birbiri, 39th Air Base Wing host nation advisor. “It is more of a monitoring process to develop and improve how the two allies work together hand-in-hand at Incirlik.”

This bilateral agreement also allows U.S. Air Force members to gain greater experience working with NATO allies, explained Birbiri, who witnessed Incirlik DECA implementation and evolution for 48 years.

“Before DECA, there were too many different bilateral agreements managed by different groups, and limited to specific locations in Türkiye, but in 1980 the Turkish and U.S. governments merged those agreements into one single document,” said Birbiri. “Now there is a more unified effort to continuously improve the work we all do together.”

Operations conducted by the 39th ABW are subject to DECA, the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, and Turkish government documentation via kindly submitted letters, which also act as a communication bridge between language and organizational challenges.

Cooperation and communication remain key factors in maintaining and strengthening the U.S.-Turkish partnership. Under DECA guidance, U.S. and Turkish members can better understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, enabling integration of forces when specific tasks involve both parties.

The DECA addresses specific bilateral relations and the presence of U.S. forces at Turkish installations, according to Feliz De Vette, 39th ABW Judge Advocate host nation attorney.

“There is an agreement on economic support, installations, and even day-to-day operations,” said De Vette. “The U.S. presence in Turkey is codified by the DECA, and that is why it is so important.”

She further explained how the DECA regulations require U.S. personnel to register certain imported items on a beyanname, a written declaration to the Turkish government as a means of customs control and preventing black marketing. Additionally, the DECA provisions ensure that the U.S. government utilizes supplies, labor, equipment, services, and civilian labor from Türkiye as much as possible, with policy exceptions reviewed by and approved by the Turkish General Staff.  

In turn, the Turkish government allows the U.S. to participate in joint defense measures at Turkish Armed Forces installations, providing Turkish-owned areas and facilities for use by U.S. organizations. Turkish installation commanders also are responsible for local Turkish relations as well as overall base security.

“The parties also support each other in accordance with the joint use protocols on flight services, fuel facilities, medical facilities, and social and morale facilities,” added De Vette.

When the annual DECA inspection occurs, it will be conducted by members of the Turkish General Staff, Turkish air force, Ministry of Customs and Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,  Ministry of Environments, U.S. Embassy, and Office of Defense Cooperation – Turkey.

During this process, U.S. and Turkish experts from various specialized fields come together to ensure all defense operations and programs comply with all 10th Tanker Base Command and the Turkish government requirements.

De Vette said that at the end of the inspection and working groups, the team will build up an action report which will guide the 39th ABW to work with the 10th TBC to fulfill each action item throughout the year.

With continued support from both Turkish and U.S. government organizations, the DECA helps ensure U.S. service members and employees stationed in Türkiye remain ready, reliable, and responsive.

“Our partnership with Türkiye started more than 70 years ago, and we remain diligent in continuing our work to uphold the DECA in order to fulfill the NATO mission,” said Col. Lord.