Gates May Cut At Least One Army Brigade from Europe

"Danger Room is hearing that only one Army brigade might actually get shipped back home."

From Spencer Ackerman, Danger Room:  In his Thursday press conference, [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates called out U.S. European Command for hosting way too many cushy billets for senior officers , part of his long-telegraphed effort to get rid of useless jobs for generals and admirals. The services’ top contributing officers in Europe will now be three-stars instead of four-stars, with their large support staffs reduced accordingly. But Gates only hinted about trimming what he called “clear… excess force structure” on a continent at peace.

According to what we’ve been able to learn since, here’s what’s up for review: at least one Army brigade, at most 3500 soldiers. Seem like small beer? The Army has 42,000 soldiers stationed in Germany and Italy (currently scheduled to drop to 32,000 by 2014), including four brigade combat teams. Danger Room was waved off of expecting “major” troop reductions in the ballpark of tens of thousands. That will leave the military way invested in Europe, which doesn’t face any likely threat that U.S. ground forces would be required to deter or repel. …

The Air Force and the Navy love their German airbases and Italian ports for accessing the volatile Mideast and Central Asia. But the Army component in Europe has more to do with geopolitics: showing the NATO allies that the U.S. is still a transatlantic power, willing to sustain a huge force in its European partner countries as an ante. It helps that Euro-bases are an economic boon to their hosts, which is one of the reasons why Europeans catch the vapors when the U.S. military so much as hints about moving troops out for good. …

The Pentagon has four years to get it right. No actual changes in Euro force structure will happen before 2015, the same timetable Gates set for cutting the Army and Marine Corps by up to 47,000.  (photo: Danger Room)

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