Officials Studying How Best to Adjust Force Posture Overseas
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 12, 2004 Defense officials are examining how best to adjust force posture to meet future threats and hope to come to some conclusions in coming months, a top official looking at the problem said.
"We think there are some important changes that ought to be made," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy Andy Hoehn said in an interview about the global posture review. He explained that top officials are now engaged in a deliberate process to make these decisions while staying mindful of possible impact on communities, forces and allies.
U.S. military forces overseas, particularly in Europe, still reflect Cold War arrangements. Those forces were stationed there to repel a communist attack on European allies. U.S. and allied forces were arranged to be ready to fight where they were stationed.
From a decade or more of experience, American military leaders have now come to understand they don't always know where they'll have to fight. "In fact," Hoehn said, "it's more likely that we won't know where we're going to fight and that we'll have to move our forces to the fight."
This need for a "surge capacity" is driving the need to have forces arranged in a more flexible posture.
These changes will be a lot more involved than just moving forces from one location to another. "We're not necessarily looking at creating new concentrations in different places, but really to have greater flexibility in the arrangements that we have," Hoehn said.
Another concern officials keep in mind as they're considering alternatives is the impact any changes would have on service members and their families. Defense leaders especially want to bring predictability to the force.
"As it is today, we have a number of different personnel systems. We have individual replacements going to some parts of the world; we have unit replacements in other parts of the world; we have individuals that are assigned to places like Europe, but they're deploying from Europe to other areas," Hoehn explained. "This all creates turbulence; it creates an unintended impact."
He said officials are working to create a global force management system that "brings more reliability and predictability into the system so that the service members know what they're going to be confronting."
This will bring the added benefits of students having to change schools less often and spouses having the opportunity to pursue more career opportunities.
Another motivating factor in upcoming changes in posture is building opportunities and facilities for joint and combined training. Hoehn said the United States is helping its allies transform their military capabilities as the U.S. military transforms its own. "The only way we'll be able to do that is when we work together with them," he said.
Hoehn also said it's vital to dispel the rumor that the United States wants to punish those countries that opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom. "It really can't be overemphasized," he said. "This is not about our day-to-day relationships with other governments.
"This really is strategic; it's long-term," he continued. "It's about getting it right for the decades."
Hoehn stressed that any proposed changes would take place over several years to minimize as much as possible impacts on communities and troops. He warned people not to expect one main rollout that spells out all upcoming changes.
"This is a process that's going to unfold over years, not months," he said. "I don't know that you'll ever see a large announcement."
However, he added, officials hope to begin making decisions in coming months so the process can get started.
The bottom line, Hoehn stressed, is that this is a much broader issue than just where to base forces in the future. "This is a whole concept of how we are able to create environments where members of our services and their families can have the predictability and the lifestyle that they need," he said.