Global Posture Realignment to Take Place Over Time
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2004 "The first message I would pass to troops and their families is that they needn't pack their bags," a senior DoD official said today, referring to just-announced plans for globally realigning U.S. armed forces.
Andrew Hoehn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, reassured servicemembers and their families that any changes would not be made in haste. "This is something that's going to take place over a period of time," he said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
As restructuring plans progress, senior defense officials say the department will follow closely any developments. DoD has set up a special e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org for people to send in questions, and upcoming articles will work to address their concerns.
Hoehn referred to President Bush's Aug. 16 announcement that said the government is entering a different stage of the realignment process from consulting with allies and partners to presenting ideas to these groups more formally.
Perhaps more important to the troops was the message of how the realignment of forces is going to affect troops and their families. Hoehn said the president made it clear that this was a process that would take 10 years to complete.
"They'll have plenty of notice," Hoehn said about troops and families. "It is our intention that these are changes that need to take place. But we're going to do them in a time and in a pace that all the parties are going to have sufficient information that they can act upon and they can plan."
The ability to plan for moves and deployments is important, but the president realizes that this is only a start.
"The president is very concerned with the welfare of our forces," Hoehn said. "It is a real statement about the concern for the welfare of our service members and for their families to bring that kind of predictability, that stability to their lives, that so many seek."
Hoehn said some changes being considered are longer tours of duty and fewer permanentchange-of-station moves over a career. This means that service members' spouses can pursue employment options and keep their jobs longer, kids can stay in schools longer, and families and children have more time with grandparents and aunts and uncles.
"Of course we have missions that we're all going to be carrying out and will be called upon. And when duty calls, we'll respond," he said.
The decisions regarding any impact on forces returning to the United States are going to be taken inside of the Base Realignment and Closure process, Hoehn pointed out. DoD's internal work on that is already under way. But the BRAC commission doesn't form until next May. Once the BRAC commission makes its recommendations, Congress, which has and will continue to play a vital role in realigning the armed forces, will have to make a decision.
Hoehn said the government wouldn't even have a final decision on the disposition of forces until about a year from now. He also said that funding for any adjustments that may have to be made would have to be secured. This pushes any actual changes out at least a year to 18 months.
Some of these changes involve the stateside movement of a large number of troops. These troop movements could include the return of two heavy divisions currently stationed in Germany to the States. They would be replaced with a Stryker brigade, which combatant commanders feel is more fitting to face the challenges the United States is confronting overseas, Hoehn said.
This strategy falls in line with the realignment strategy of making American forces lighter, faster and more agile.
Bush indicated in his speech Monday that the movement of 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel, mostly from Europe, and 100,000 family members stateside wasn't out of the question. The president added that a "very substantial" U.S. military ground presence would remain.
While they will remain, the location of these troops will be adjusted to meet the new threats the United States faces. "The threat that we thought we would confront in Europe is one that is no more," Hoehn said. "I think it was right and appropriate in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War that we not make any drastic adjustments, because we wanted to make sure that those changes were lasting ones."
Now the country faces new challenges and must retool its fighting forces to meet those challenges head on, Hoehn said.