U.S. to Cut Europe Forces in Remake

17.02.2012 10:27

 

WSJ: WASHINGTON—The Pentagon will pull some 10,000 troops out of Europe in a broad reorganization that will shrink the number of Army and Air Force personnel stationed in Germany and close a number of bases.
 
The changes represent new details of a plan previously announced by Washington to reduce the number of hard-to-deploy heavy brigades and cut costs by stationing more units in the U.S., rather than overseas.
 
Two heavy Army brigades, one based in Baumholder, Germany, and the other in Grafenwöhr, will be deactivated. The V Corps, one of the Army's war fighting headquarters, also will be closed. Also to be shut are two Air Force squadrons, at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany and a second in Italy.
 
In all, the U.S. plans to vacate four of its bases in Europe, turning them over to the German government.
 
In recent months, U.S. officials have consulted widely with allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other governments in Europe about their plans to remove forces from Europe.
 
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met Thursday afternoon with Thomas de Maizière, the German minister of defense. Mr. Panetta said the two discussed withdrawal of the heavy brigades from Germany.
 
"Despite these changes, over 40,000 U.S. troops still will be based in Germany, training at state-of-the-art facilities, and boosting their ability to partner with NATO allies so they are prepared to deploy for international operations," Mr. Panetta said.
 
Mr. Panetta said Germany, like the U.S., is trying to make its military more agile. Germany is ending conscription and is trying to form a professional and volunteer force.
 
Mr. Maizière said that despite the drawdown, the bulk of U.S. troops in Europe will remain in Germany. He said the U.S. was moving "from quantity to quality, adding, "The impact will be moderate."
 
Pentagon officials took pains to emphasize that despite the cuts, the U.S. will have approximately 70,000 troops stationed in Europe, including those in Germany.
 
"No one should equate lower numbers of troops permanently stationed in Europe with declining engagement with our European partners," said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary.
 
The U.S. is building up its missile-defense facilities in Europe, and has decided to station Navy ships in Rota, Spain. On Thursday, the U.S. Navy announced three guided-missile destroyers from Norfolk, Va., and one from Mayport, Fla., will deploy to Rota. The ships will be part of the European missile defense shield that the U.S. and NATO are building. Two ships are due in 2014 and two in 2015, the Navy said.
 
The U.S. will also begin contributing forces to NATO's rapid-reaction force as well as rotating other U.S.-based units for multination training exercises in Hohenfels, Germany.
 
U.S. officials said they expect the new rotations will give more units a chance to train alongside NATO allies, learning how to fight with a coalition.
 
"If we want to look to the future and think of the types of conflicts we will fight in the future, we want to fight in multilateral ways, not independently," said a senior defense official. "If you rotate, you expose more of your people to the multi-lateral training environment overtime."
 
The U.S. will keep two units in Europe, a Stryker Brigade in Germany and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vincenza, Italy. Unlike the heavy brigades, those two units have been modernized, reorganized and given newer equipment.
 
"The remaining two brigades, the Stryker brigade and the airborne brigade, are the cutting edge," said another defense official.
By JULIAN E. BARNES