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Jones Discusses Changing Troop 'Footprint' in Europe

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2003 – Changing the "footprint" of U.S. forces in the European Command's area of operations goes hand-in-hand with NATO transformation, said Marine Gen. James Jones, the alliance's supreme allied commander, today.

Jones, who also heads U.S. European Command, said the alliance's center of gravity is in Europe, but the center of activity "is clearly shifting."

Speaking at a Pentagon press conference, Jones said the alliance is expanding in Eastern and Central Europe. What's more, the "geostrategic center of interest for the alliance" is in the greater Middle East, he noted.

In addition, Jones said threats are emerging from the southern region of the U.S. European Command -- the southern rim of the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa. There are "large, ungoverned areas which are potential havens for the terrorists of the world and the future merchants of all kinds of things that we're trying to do battle with."

Strategic forward presence is the heart of any change in the footprint. But this requires a far different force from the one present in Europe today. "The cornerstone of anything that we do, any proposal that has been made, is trying to take the forces that we have and make them strategically more agile," Jones said.

Troops may not be at long-established bases. Rather, they may deploy to forward operating bases for a certain amount of time. "But the point of any type of readjustment of our forces is to create more strategic effect," he said.

This does not mean that all American troops will leave Germany or other established bases in Europe. He said that an installation like Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is irreplaceable. "It is inconceivable to me, and anyone else, that you would close Ramstein and move it 500 kilometers to the east and rebuild it," Jones said. "That's simply not going to happen."

Jones said the world is a smaller place. "We have an opportunity to establish a strategic presence, operational presence if required, much quicker than ever before. And therefore, the basing modalities can reasonably be expected to be examined to make sure that we're doing it right in the future," he said.

The general said the idea is evolutionary, not revolutionary. There is no rush to implement the program. He said any plan must be cleared at levels within the United States and with the NATO allies.

"The military advice and the military recommendation has been made with no political considerations," he said. "I've not tried to put any political considerations on top of my military judgment. So that will have to be done elsewhere."

The NATO allies also must "lighten" their footprints in terms of the number of people in uniform. Jones said he is extremely pleased with the way that NATO is transforming. The centerpiece of that transformation is the NATO Response Force. This force is due to stand up at Allied Forces, North headquarters Oct. 15. The force will signal NATO's rapid move into the world of combined-arms operations. It will have an integrated air, land and sea capability and be able to execute military missions on a global scale.

Jones said the first two rotations will be largely experimental. European Command officials said that even as an experimental force, it could deploy if needed.

Jones said the NATO allies have approached the Response Force issue properly. "I've been very encouraged with the enthusiasm that our allies and friends have taken towards this concept of the NATO Response Force," he said.

"It is the transformational path of the future. If the NATO Response Force works, NATO will be transformed. If it doesn't work, we've got major difficulties. People understand this, and they are committed to it."

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