US Will Keep Cutting Bases in Europe, Top General Says

Romanian soldiers and US Marines training togetherThe U.S. military will continue to close buildings and bases in Europe, the top American commander there told Foreign Policy. But U.S. troops should remain on the continent in about the same numbers they are today.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, who is both commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, said budget reductions will force European Command to continue cutting back its footprint, closing smaller bases and shuttering facilities. But cutting personnel is another matter.

If the command is to continue working with America’s European allies — and responding to potential missions in places like North Africa — the military must maintain the boots on the ground to do it, he said. Maintaining personnel means being able to build and maintain relationships that are as critical now as they ever have been. Breedlove noted that more than 250,000 Europeans have deployed to Afghanistan since the war began. Of those, some 42,000 had been trained by U.S. Army advisers in Germany.

“As I look at the size and type of our Army in Europe, the size and type of our Air Force in Europe, what I’m most keen on is to remain engaged with our military partners so we can train with them across the full gamut because this gives us partners who will go to war with us when we need them,” he said.

Breedlove’s comments come as the Pentagon has signaled that it may trim the U.S. Army to 420,000 troops by 2019 — if not faster. That could have an effect on a command like European Command, potentially robbing of it of the kind of training and advising forces on which it has come to rely. . . .

Breedlove is far more open to more cuts to bases and facilities, however. This spring, a study called the European Infrastructure Consolidation Review will look at the size of the infrastructure the U.S. military needs for Europe. Breedlove wouldn’t preview its potential conclusions, but conceded the U.S. could close more facilities and gain efficiencies.

“I’m on the record as saying ‘yes, there is more,'” he said. “There is infrastructure I believe we can still divest.”

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Image: Romanian soldiers and US Marines training together (photo: Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda/EUCOM)