The U.S. military’s senior leader said Wednesday that he’s a strong supporter of maintaining a sizeable presence overseas, including in Europe, despite budget constraints, because of the proximity to potential hotspots.
But he said there is room to cut infrastructure in the States.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said despite multi-million-dollar budget cuts looming for the Pentagon, he would advocate keeping tens of thousands of troops in Europe, even as the United States focuses more attention on the Pacific and gets set to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan.
“Three reasons come immediately to mind,” he said during a brief interview before addressing an all-hands gathering on base.
The first, Dempsey said, is maintaining and strengthening partnerships with NATO allies.
“Every time we have gone to war, at least some of them have chosen to go with us,” he said. . . .
Secondly, Dempsey said that bases in Europe, the Pacific and elsewhere are closer to potential conflicts than those in the States. F-16s stationed in Aviano, for instance, are closer to Africa and the Middle East than they would be if they were based in the States.
The third reason, he said, “and it’s often overlooked,” is cultural influences troops overseas absorb. They pick up ideas and new strategies by living in different environments, he said.
Dempsey said there are military facilities in the States that should be shuttered and that would save the Pentagon money, though he did not elaborate on which those might be. . . .
“I’m not wedded to a particular mechanism” for closing Stateside bases, he said, “but we do have excess infrastructure.”