Eucom Boss Calls Troop Reductions ‘Manageable, Appropriate’

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 2012 — Planned reduc­tions to U.S. forces in Europe is an exten­sion of the post-Cold War draw­down that is both man­age­able and appro­pri­ate in the new glob­al con­text, the com­man­der of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand told Con­gress today.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who also serves as the NATO supreme allied com­man­der for Europe, told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that the planned 15 per­cent reduc­tion of U.S. troops based in Europe would bring the cur­rent lev­el of about 96,000 troops down to 68,000. The U.S. pres­ence in Europe already is down about 75 per­cent from its high of about 400,000 troops in Europe at the height of the Cold War, he said.

The Defense Department’s fis­cal 2013 bud­get request calls for two heavy brigade com­bat teams and two air squadrons to leave Europe next year and in fis­cal 2014. The bud­get pro­pos­al was based on the new strate­gic mil­i­tary guid­ance devel­oped over months of dis­cus­sions among com­bat­ant com­man­ders and oth­er mil­i­tary lead­ers, Stavridis said.

“I sup­port the strat­e­gy, and I sup­port this reduc­tion,” he said.

The admi­ral said there are many rea­sons for the mil­i­tary to main­tain its Euro­pean pres­ence: Europe’s eco­nom­ic base, which amounts to about 25 per­cent of the world’s gross domes­tic prod­uct; its cen­tral loca­tion for get­ting U.S. forces to Africa, the Mid­dle East and South and Cen­tral Asia; the NATO alliance; and the long­stand­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

“Europe is a very broad geo-strate­gic plat­form,” he said. “This is a part of the world that real­ly shares our val­ues. We stand with Europe in many, many ways philo­soph­i­cal­ly. For all those rea­sons, Europe will con­tin­ue to mat­ter, and I hope we’ll approach [down­siz­ing] in a bal­anced way.”

Euro­pean Com­mand worked hard in the past year on NATO cam­paigns in Libya, Afghanistan and the Balka­ns, Stavridis said. It works con­tin­u­ous­ly to strength­en part­ner­ships for train­ing and oper­a­tions, and focus­es on areas such as mis­sile defense and coun­ter­ing cyber threats and drug traf­fick­ing, he added.

To mit­i­gate any gaps or risks asso­ci­at­ed with the draw­down, Stavridis told the pan­el, the mil­i­tary would have a ded­i­cat­ed brigade com­bat team in Ger­many on a rota­tion­al basis avail­able to deploy to East­ern Europe, the Baltic states or wher­ev­er it is need­ed. While Euro­pean Com­mand will lose some air­craft, he said, it will gain V-22 Ospreys and is adding sev­er­al ships to man­age the U.S. mis­sile defense sys­tem in Europe.

Asked about asym­met­ric threats in Europe, Stavridis said there were some 300 kinet­ic ter­ror­ist inci­dents rang­ing from bomb­ings to assas­si­na­tions in Europe last year, includ­ing the shoot­ing of two U.S. air­men at a Frank­furt, Ger­many, air­port, and that riot­ing in north­ern Koso­vo in recent months left sev­er­al NATO troops shot and dozens hos­pi­tal­ized.

Eucom will con­tin­ue to work on its mil­i­tary part­ner­ships so oth­er nations fight along­side U.S. forces, the admi­ral said. Such rela­tion­ships also are impor­tant to mis­sions such as coun­ter­drugs, coun­ter­pira­cy and cyber defense, he not­ed.

Asked about pos­si­ble future NATO part­ners, Stavridis named India and Brazil as wor­thy part­ners. He not­ed that 22 nations includ­ed in the inter­na­tion­al coali­tion in Afghanistan are not NATO mem­bers, includ­ing New Zealand and Ton­ga. Impor­tant non-NATO part­ner­ships exist in the Mediter­ranean Dia­logue, which allowed dis­cus­sions about Libya last year, and the Istan­bul Ini­tia­tive, which is a forum for Per­sian Gulf states to part­ner on anti-pira­cy efforts, he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)