Force Realignment

U.S. May Halve Forces in Germany

The Pentagon has drafted plans to withdraw as many as half of the 71,000 troops based in Germany as part of an extensive realignment of American military forces that moves away from large concentrations in Europe and Asia, according to U.S. officials.

Under the plan, which is nearing approval, smaller, relatively spartan bases would be established in Romania and possibly Bulgaria, and designed for the rapid projection of U.S. military power against terrorists, hostile states and other potential adversaries.

Farther east, in Central Asia, bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that were established in 2001 to support the war in Afghanistan would be preserved as training sites and as staging areas that U.S. forces could use in emergencies.

In Asia, about 15,000 troops out of a total presence of about 100,000 would be withdrawn, mostly by streamlining administrative staffs of the U.S. military commands in South Korea and Japan, the officials said. But much of that reduction could be offset by a buildup of personnel and aircraft in Guam and the possible stationing of another aircraft carrier battle group in either Guam or Hawaii, the officials said. The Pentagon plan also calls for new training and staging areas in Australia and expansion of military ties with Singapore and Thailand.

U.S. officials have said before that they intended to eliminate a number of large, full-service Cold War bases abroad and construct a network of more skeletal outposts closer to potential trouble spots in the Middle East and along the Pacific Rim. But neither the proposed size of the reductions in Europe and Asia nor details about locations of the new sites were previously disclosed.

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The administration still intends to retain a ring of permanent military hubs in closely allied countries, including Germany, Britain, Italy and Japan. But many other bases that the United States has relied on would be supplanted by a number of spare “forward operating sites” such as those planned for Eastern Europe. They would be maintained by small support staffs.

Other countries would be designated as “cooperative security locations,” providing staging areas that U.S. forces could occupy quickly in a conflict. These locations would have no permanent U.S. military presence but could be used periodically for training exercises.

This makes sense on a lot of levels. The old saying was that NATO was created to keep America in, to keep the USSR out, and to keep Germany down. The rationale for stationing so many forces in Germany has been long obviated. It’s been made apparent by sixty years of action that the U.S. will be there if there’s a fight in Europe, and sixty years of peace between the major powers makes another war within the West seem farfetched. The Soviet Union is long gone and, while Russia is rapidly moving back into authoritarianism, they’re certainly in no position to project power.

Positioning large numbers of forces in a Germany is problematic. Land is at a premium and prices are high. The German people’s tolerance for gigantic, noisy American military equipment tearing up their streets and farmland or have jets screaming overhead was rather low even during the Cold War. I would hazard a guess that it’s decreased substantially since then. Germany is quite expensive, which means substantial additional costs in housing allowances and other outlays. The places where anything approaching realistic combined arms training can be held in Germany are few. Wildflicken and Grafenwëhr are the only ones that come to mind.

Further, as the lead-up to the Iraq War demonstrated, the domestic politics of traditional allies like Germany and Turkey may make staging of American forces untenable. Having more options makes sense. The bottom line is that we no longer have a single enemy to focus our attention on, so it doesn’t make sense to put most of our overseas forces in one location.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Teresa says:

    Now I’m wondering who they’ll be moving and when, since my son is currently stationed in Germany. Thanks for posting this, I hadn’t seen it anywhere else yet.

  2. Kalblog says:

    We’re Taking Troops Out of Germany
    This is really good news. The one thing I don’t understand is Joyner’s assertion that Germans don’t like our troops. From what I understand, the towns around the bases are heavily dependant on them economically, and don’t want us out,…

  3. HALVING TROOPS IN GERMANY
    I think that this is a good move.The Pentagon has drafted plans to withdraw as many as half of the 71,000 troops based in Germany as part of an extensive realignment of American military forces that moves away from large…

  4. Not very surprising.
    Although it might seem so, or at least odd, to my generation: US May Halve Forces in Germany. The Pentagon has drafted plans to withdraw as many as half of the 71,000 troops based in Germany as part of an