US Army to Replace 2 Brigades in Europe With Rotating Units

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 12, 2012 — Ground forces will remain impor­tant to the U.S. defense strat­e­gy, but the employ­ment of the forces will change, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said today.

In an inter­view on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas, Panet­ta said that the Army will with­draw two brigade com­bat teams from Europe, while retain­ing a strong pres­ence in the region via rota­tion­al units.

The change is part of a new, 10-year defense strat­e­gy announced by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma last week that empha­sizes air-sea doc­trine to bet­ter allow the Unit­ed States to con­front more than one threat at a time, Panet­ta said. Still, ground forces will remain impor­tant, and sol­diers and Marines will con­tin­ue to deploy to Afghanistan and be on the Kore­an Penin­su­la and part­ner­ing with nations around the globe.

“We will con­tin­ue to main­tain our pres­ence both in the Mid­dle East and Asia,” the sec­re­tary said. “Yes, we’ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my expe­ri­ence, in any con­flict you need to have the poten­tial use of ground forces.”

Panet­ta said he is excit­ed about the prospect of using Army units on a rota­tion­al basis, just as Spe­cial Forces and the Marine Corps do. “Get­ting the Army to deploy to areas con­duct­ing exer­cis­es pro­vid­ing, most of all, a part­ner­ship with coun­tries in Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa, oth­er coun­tries where we can show the flag” is impor­tant, he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odier­no is par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ed about the abil­i­ty to devel­op that rota­tion­al capa­bil­i­ty, Panet­ta said. “It will keep the ground forces very mean­ing­ful in the future,” he said.

As the Army replaces the two brigade com­bat teams with rota­tion­al units, the Euro­peans actu­al­ly will see more U.S. forces because the Amer­i­can forces in Europe have more often than not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Panet­ta said.

DOD offi­cials have spo­ken to Euro­pean lead­ers about the with­draw­al and they under­stand why the change will be good for the U.S. mil­i­tary and NATO allies, senior defense offi­cials trav­el­ing with the sec­re­tary said.

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

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