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Realignment Planners Working Closely with Allies, Congress

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2004 – Defense Department officials planning a global force-posture realignment are working closely with U.S. allies overseas and members of Congress to ensure the best possible outcome.

"It was important that this not just be a U.S. view of what the changes in the world would be, but what do our allies think about that? What do our partners think about that? What kind of changes would they envision that would be right for the kind of security challenges that not only we face, but they face?" said Andy Hoehn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, during an interview today with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

DoD officials have been working for some time to determine what the ideal force structure, both in the United States and overseas, should look like. Officials have said U.S. forces need to be overhauled because assumptions made during the Cold War no longer apply.

U.S. forces need to assume they won't fight where they're stationed, but rather will need to move to unanticipated locations to deal with unforeseen threats, Hoehn said. To that end, he recently undertook an outreach visit to foreign capitals. During visits to Madrid, Spain; Rome; Ankara, Turkey; and Moscow, Hoehn said, Pentagon officials received needed feedback on their ideas.

The visit to Russia, in particular, showed that the United States is serious about moving past Cold War thinking, he said. "We've been trying to demonstrate both in words and actions the seriousness of that," he said. "We have a very different relationship with Russia today than certainly we did even five or 10 years ago, to say nothing of the period of the Cold War itself."

Other countries have been supportive of the United States' efforts to transform its armed forces, Hoehn said. "We're hearing a recognition that it is time that these changes take place, that we and our allies are confronting a different set of problems," he said.

Hoehn explained the realignment process began in earnest with the combatant commanders and service chiefs presenting defense leaders with "a series of very concrete proposals." Pentagon leaders further refined those proposals and then sought to get input from U.S. allies, particularly those countries that host U.S. forces or might in the future.

"As part of our decision process, we wanted to be able to bring those views into our own thinking," he said, adding that other points of view will allow defense leaders to present a more rounded set of proposals to President Bush for a final decision.

Hoehn said he believes defense officials will be ready to present their proposals to the president within the next several weeks or few months. Once Bush makes his decisions on how U.S. forces should be aligned, negotiations will begin with foreign countries to bring about the changes.

Officials are not ready to share details of their proposed changes to the U.S. force structure, but have said U.S. forces will be aligned overseas based on flexible capabilities and the ability to rapidly deploy those capabilities anywhere in the world.

The overseas realignment process is "inextricably linked" to the work of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the United States, Hoehn said. "In a sense, they're two sides of a coin," he said.

Any force realignment overseas logically would entail moving some units back to the United States and vice versa. The military needs to be able to base those units, which is why cooperation with Congress is so vital to the process.

In May 2005, military service and defense officials will make proposals to the BRAC Commission, which, in turn, makes recommendations to Congress.

Support from Congress is crucial to fund any proposed changes, and, Hoehn said, defense officials have been sure to keep members of relevant oversight committees informed at every step of the way in this realignment process.

"There are many complex parts to this," he said. "And so, as our own thinking has evolved, we have tried to ensure that Congress has stayed informed.

"Ultimately, it's congressional support that we'll need to be able to accomplish these moves," he added. "So we have viewed Congress as a critical partner in our undertakings."

Continued congressional support for the BRAC process is important, as well. "We need Congress's support for the BRAC process so that when we go to make these changes we can do it in a rational way, looking at the entirety of our domestic infrastructure and not just a piece at a time," Hoehn said.

He said he anticipates that moves to or from overseas as a result of this process might begin in late 2005 or early 2006. Until then, the best place for service members and families to get information about impending changes is through their local commanders.

"The local commanders are connected through their chains of command to the decisions that are taking place. They'll have the best information on the time, the place, (and) when the decisions are going to be taken," Hoehn said.

He noted there might be periods when no new information is available because key decisions haven't been made yet. "But as there is new information," he said, "we'll make sure it gets out to the commanders."

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