Wald Says Changed World Drives EUCOM Transformation
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2003 In 1987 more than 300,000 U.S. troops were stationed throughout Europe primarily to prevent a Soviet invasion, U.S. European Command's deputy commander noted here Aug. 5.
Yet, today, just 106,000 American troops serve within EUCOM's area of operations, Air Force Gen. Chuck F. Wald pointed out during a Pentagon roundtable meeting with DoD military and civilian reporters.
Although the Cold War became a relic of history with the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, that struggle has been replaced by a "hot" war -- the war against global terrorism, Wald declared.
"The proliferation of terrorists around the world is incredible," he asserted, noting he "didn't think anybody really, really, knew for sure how broad the problem was before 9-11."
And terrorism, the four-star general explained, is driving EUCOM's efforts to transform itself in tandem with the Defense Department to meet the challenges of the 21st century, as personified by the specter of terrorism.
EUCOM "is embarking on a campaign" to take jointness "to a new integrated level," Wald explained, "by transforming from our current post-Cold War force structure and basing environment to one that is positioned to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century."
Global terrorism, Wald emphasized, is the new boogeyman confronting civilized nations of the world. For example, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he pointed out, more than 6,400 terrorists have been arrested throughout EUCOM's area of operations.
And, he noted, terrorists have mounted more than 335 attacks around the world since 9-11.
While there are myriad terrorist organizations today, Wald pointed out that al Qaeda alone has trained between 25,000 and 70,000 terrorists.
"So you start saying to yourself: 'This is a problem, and it's going to take a long time (to resolve),'" the general noted.
That's why, Wald explained, DoD and the armed services are transforming to become more flexible in meeting the threat of global terrorism.
U.S. and coalition forces kicked al Qaeda and their Taliban enablers out of Afghanistan, he noted, so terrorists require new, isolated places with porous borders to train and prepare attacks on major population centers in Europe, the United States, Indonesia and Asia.
For example, Wald said terrorists operating in Eastern Europe have established lines of communication across the Caucasus Mountains. And he sees Russia which has its share of problems with terrorists in Chechnya -- as a valuable ally in the war against terrorism.
While his command has greatly drawn down its troop and basing footprint across Europe since the end of the Cold War, Wald said much more needs to be done in light of a changed world precipitated by 9-11.
In the next several years, for example, Wald said he envisions the movement of U.S. deterrent power in Europe to the east, possibly to Bulgaria and other former Soviet satellites. Such new U.S. military basing would be joint services in nature to enhance interoperability, he pointed out, while providing the flexibility to act quickly, as needed.
"Let me tell you that jointness counts," Wald asserted, noting that "in the EUCOM theater (of operations), no matter which service uniform you're wearing in Africa, the Mediterranean, Eastern and Western Europe we're continuing to push joint operations to another order of magnitude."
Troops assigned to these new transformational power projection points would stand ready to address terrorist activity in certain parts of Eastern Europe, to safeguard critical Caspian Sea oil pipelines, and guard other strategic geopolitical points, Wald remarked.
Troops could be rotated in and out of EUCOM duty -- as part of whole units from locations in the United States -- on relatively short-term assignments, he noted, reducing the need for expensive permanent facilities, such as those in Germany.
"We did it in the Middle East, for example, in Kuwait," Wald pointed out.
Such transformational changes slated for EUCOM, he observed, dovetail with ongoing efforts to streamline NATO military operations to meet the challenges of a changed world.
In fact, Wald noted that "developing relationships" with new NATO members in the east - and other nations who aspire to one day join the Atlantic alliance -- is another critical component of EUCOM transformation efforts.
However, Wald said there's a perceived desire during EUCOM's transformation not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
For example, he noted, among existing installations likely to remain part of EUCOM's inventory will be U.S. military facilities such as the Army's Grafenwoehr armor training area in Germany, the Rota, Spain, U.S. naval facility and the Air Force's base in Ramstein, Germany.
Change is difficult, Wald acknowledged, noting that's one reason he's committed to ensure EUCOM's people receive the best quality of life available during and after transformation.
"True jointness is the synergy that our EUCOM men and women in uniform, DoD civilians and our families contribute to our national security and that's the most powerful transformation," the general concluded.