Reduction Doesn't Lessen U.S. Commitment to Europe
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2004 A drop in the number of U.S. forces in Europe does not mean any lessening in U.S. commitment to the continent, the commander of U.S. European Command said today.
The United States will realign its forces in Europe "to meet the family of threats that face us in a way that is more suitable," said Marine Gen. Jim Jones.
U.S. forces will become more expeditionary, more available and quicker, the general said. U.S. forces in Europe will drop from about 100,000 to around 50,000, Jones said. Current planning is for an Army Stryker brigade in Germany, a Southern European brigade in Italy and an Eastern European brigade. The brigade in eastern Europe would be a rotational unit.
The general said that more U.S. special operations forces would be based in the region also.
Jones said reconfiguring the forces in Europe has already begun. The U.S. Navy headquarters in London, for example, is folding in with the Navy headquarters in Naples, Italy. "We have to move out of the 20th century where massive headquarters were formed and got bigger and bigger and bigger," he said.
In the last two years, the European Command has also identified to Congress the installations the United States absolutely has to retain. Jones said that this effort in Europe saved more than $300 million in military construction projects.
Jones said the time is now to make these changes. "There is no uniformed enemy on the side of a border, and the principle of mass of the 20th century has been replaced by the principle of precision," he said. "We can do a lot more by being precise and playing a more proactive role in preventing conflict than always having to react to conflict."
Getting a small number of highly capable forces to an area may prevent a problem from becoming a crisis. "Proactive costs are invariably cheaper than reactive costs," Jones said.
But smaller numbers do not mean a lessening of interest in Europe. The region is strategically important to the United States. Between 85 and 90 percent of the personnel and cargo moved to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom moved through the region.
If all goes as planned and everything about reposturing the forces in Europe is done in consultation with allies three types of U.S. bases in Europe will emerge. Main bases will be system hubs, such as Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Rota Naval Base, Spain, and facilities in Naples.
Forward operating bases are bases kept "warm" by local nationals, contract employees or a small cadre of servicemembers. Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, is an example. Such bases could accommodate a brigade, but not support families, and be near an airport or seaport. "We can simply turn on the lights and operate relatively quickly," Jones said.
The third type of basing is the cooperative security location. This is a bare bones base. European Command is working with the State Department to negotiate access to areas. Jones said the command is building a catalog of bases that he hopes will "dot the landscape." Special operations forces, Marines or light infantry would use these areas.
"In the end, the footprint will allow us to become more strategically engaged in the East and Far East, which is an area of the world that we are interested in," Jones said. "It would also allow us to spread our influence in Africa, a continent of looming challenges for the 21st century."
Reposturing is not just about defending the United States. "This is about making sure that we halt the spread of radical fundamentalism, weapons of mass destruction, narcoterrorism and all the things that are making this world a more dangerous place than it has to be," he said.
The transformation should also make life easier for servicemembers and their families because it will make life more predictable.
And there will still be opportunities for servicemembers to live in Europe. "We're not turning off the lights in Europe," Jones said. "We're actually turning up the wattage a little bit so we can do some other things."