New Strategy May Result in Extra Brigade Departing Europe
The White House may return to the previous administration’s plan to bring home two of the nation’s four Europe-based brigade combat teams rather than redeploying only one of the units under a revision announced last April.
In rolling out the Pentagon’s new strategy last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hinted that the military would scale down its footprint in Europe but declined to explicitly confirm whether the department would cut its presence there.
“The U.S. military’s force posture in Europe will, of necessity, continue to adapt and evolve to meet new challenges and opportunities, particularly in light of the security needs of the continent relative to the emerging strategic priorities that we face elsewhere,” he said.
Panetta’s British counterpart Philip Hammond, however, said after meeting with the secretary on Thursday that DOD plans to retain only two brigades in Europe, reported Stars and Stripes. The Pentagon first announced such a plan in 2004 as part of a proposal to reduce U.S. forces in Europe from 100,000 to 60,000.
That plan was suspended last year over concerns that it would hamper the military’s ability to respond to trouble in Africa and the Middle East, and leave it unable to fulfill its commitments to NATO and to engage effectively with its allies. Pentagon officials may not clarify their intentions until the administration unveils the fiscal 2013 budget request in February.
Some believe it is unlikely the military will dramatically reduce its existing commitment in Europe from 80,000 service members, including 42,000 soldiers. “I don’t believe they will scale back too much in Europe, [it] doesn’t make budgetary or strategic sense to do so,” Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution defense analyst, told Stars and Stripes.