From Mike Coffman, Office of Congressman Mike Coffman:  The place to begin is by making fundamental changes in the way we have based forces in Europe since the end of World War II.

I appreciate the challenges that the Department of Defense is facing, but I don’t believe they are being bold enough when considering what is necessary.  The current proposal to remove two brigades from Europe and being a rotational deployment schedule of one combat brigade is only a step in the right direction. We must reduce our European footprint further and retain only the headquarters and support infrastructure necessary to support our expeditionary. There is no longer a strategic reason to maintain the heavy permanent forces in Germany that are a relic of the Cold War.

The Congressional Budget Office calculated in May of 2004 that removing 95% of forces in Germany alone could save one billion dollars annually. In addition, many of the upfront costs associated with that plan are no longer as severe as we reduce the overall size of our Army, and there are more savings to be had by transferring the bulk of this capacity to the Guard and Reserve components.

Our European allies are facing a fiscal crisis of their own.  However, instead of being forced to find the same balance that the United States is trying to achieve, they are able to drastically reduce their national defense infrastructure because they can take for granted that the United States will continue to be the guarantor of their safety. Since 2008 the defense spending among European NATO countries fell 12%, from $314 billion to $275 billion. To continue this trend threatens to eliminate our allies’ capacity to contribute to the alliance.  While I value our strategic partnerships and NATO commitments I believe it is time to clearly signal to them that their current path is no longer sustainable.

Currently only 4 out of our 28 NATO allies are spending even 2% of their GDP on defense.  The new Strategic Guidance issued by the President and Secretary of Defense makes it clear that we will continue to “maintain NATO Article 5 commitments and ensure interoperability with allied forces by allocating a U.S.-based brigade to the NATO Response Force and by rotating U.S.-based units to Europe for training and exercises.” Nothing in this strategy demands that we maintain any standing force in Europe. . . .

We must continue to pressure our allies to become more sufficient for their national defense so that we can take on the more arduous task of power projection. Removing our standing European army and replacing it with an infrastructure to facilitate expeditionary operations is the first step.

Excerpts from letter by Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-6), member of the House Armed Services Committee, to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.  (via Morning Defense)

From Charles Hoskinson, Morning Defense:  Some lawmakers also have tied DOD’s request for a new BRAC round to the issue of forces in Europe, saying bases abroad should be closed before those at home.  (photo: