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Thread: 2 Army Brigades to leave Europe

  1. #1
    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    2 Army Brigades to leave Europe

    I've been waiting for this to happen for a number of years now. I guess some brilliant mind in the Pentagon realized that the Soviets weren't likely to come through the Fulda Gap anytime soon.


    2 Army brigades to leave Europe in cost-cutting move - The Washington Post
    2 Army brigades to leave Europe in cost-cutting move

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    By Greg Jaffe, Friday, January 13, 9:55 AM

    FORT BLISS, Tex. — The Obama administration has decided to remove two of the four U.S. Army brigades remaining in Europe as part of a broader effort to cut $487 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade, said senior U.S. officials.

    The reductions in Army forces, which have not been formally announced, are likely to concern European officials, who worry that the smaller American presence reflects a waning of interest in the decades-long U.S.-NATO partnership in Europe.

    Top Pentagon officials have sought to allay the concerns by telling their NATO allies in private meetings that the United States will continue to rotate Army units through Europe on training missions to augment the presence of the remaining two brigades.

    “In the briefing we’ve been giving the Europeans, we have made clear that there is going to be this rotational presence there that will be conducting exercises,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in an interview.

    “As a matter of fact, they will probably see more of the Americans under the new strategy because the brigades that were there were actually fighting in Afghanistan and weren’t even there. . . . What you are going to have is two [brigades] plus this large rotational presence that is going to be there.”

    The reductions are part of a Pentagon plan to shrink the Army from its current 560,000 soldiers to about 490,000, defense officials said. The cuts are being driven by a new defense strategy that calls for smaller, faster and more agile forces and a shift in focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, where China has been investing in submarines, fighter jets and precision-guided missiles.

    Senior Obama administration officials have targeted Europe for cuts because they recognize that reductions in U.S. forces abroad will generate less congressional outcry than cuts in the United States, where the soldiers pump money into local economies.

    The U.S. military maintains about 80,000 troops in Europe from all of the services. Cutting two Army brigades and the noncombat units that support them will result in a reduction of about 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers.

    Panetta’s idea of augmenting American presence around the world by rotating combat brigades or smaller Army units through areas on training exercises is a relatively new concept for the regular Army, which has historically maintained a more static, garrison-based force in Europe.

    During the past decade, the Army’s combat brigades have rotated with little rest to Iraq and Afghanistan on 12- to 15-month tours.

    “If we can develop these innovative rotational presences elsewhere, we will be in a position to basically cover not only the areas where we are keeping a key focus — the Pacific and the Middle East — but we will be covering the world,” Panetta said.

    He said the Pentagon envisions sending Army units to areas such as Latin America and Africa on training exercises as the Obama administration continues to cut the size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan. Such missions have typically been conducted by Army Special Forces units and the Marine Corps.

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    Goodbye & godspeed! And thank you for being here when we needed it. Most of us are ungrateful bastards, but not all.


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    Quote Originally Posted by HKDan View Post
    I guess some brilliant mind in the Pentagon realized that the Soviets weren't likely to come through the Fulda Gap anytime soon.
    There are three army ground combat brigades "stationed" in Europe, including two in Germany. These are 170th IBCT out of Baumholder (currently deployed with ISAF), 172nd IBCT out of Grafenwöhr (currently deployed with ISAF) and 173rd ABCT in Italy (keeping tabs on US allies in the Western Balkans).

    The only major unit "available" for the Fulda Gap would be 2 CR (aka 2 SCR) because they're currently on relief from rotating deployment.

    Out of those 80,000 troops nominally stationed in Europe nearly 50,000 are Air Force btw.

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The only major unit "available" for the Fulda Gap would be 2 CR (aka 2 SCR) because they're currently on relief from rotating deployment.

    Out of those 80,000 troops nominally stationed in Europe nearly 50,000 are Air Force btw.
    The Fulda Gap bit was not meant as a literal statement. It does make sense for the US to decrease its force structure in Europe. I imagine that the USAF numbers there are going to come down too at some point in the not too distant future. When the Afghan war effort winds down, I imagine that Ramstein Air Base and its supporting units will likely shrink.
    Last edited by HKDan; 14 Jan 12, at 08:26.

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    Nah, those structures are needed for Iran after all

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    Europe is closer to the ME than the US, so looking through the lens of the Soviets/Fulda Gap is one that can cloud the advantages for having units in Europe. I don't know the fiscal costs of stationing abroad versus stationing in the US, but there's probably cost advantages to the decision. However, reducing the presence contains the possibility of lessening influence, so there's potential costs that can't be captured by price tags. On the flip side, it's much easier to push through cuts that won't impact a Congressional district.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    I do accept your suggestion that one motivation behind these cuts is the relative ease that they can be politically accepted in the US. Also, that a reduction of forces in Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, will likely result in some loss of influence. Still, whenever I hear the suggestion that the US maintain forces for ease of deployment to the ME, it reminds me of the time Robert Gates said that anyone suggesting that America get involved in a land war in Asia again should have their "head examined." That is not to say that there isn't the possibility of some future engagement in this volatile region, but that it is to be avoided if possible. If in the future, it becomes necessary to intervene on the ground in the ME or Africa(I'm thinking along the lines of another Rwanda scenario), it should be done as a part of a larger effort and could perhaps draw on the heavy armor of regional allies to some extent. The frame of reference I am using here is the recent operation in Libya, where the US was able to play an essential role, while also requiring allies to make a significant contribution. I think in the current fiscal climate, the two brigades that would remain in Europe should suffice to display regional commitment and be useful as a rapidly deployable force if necessary.

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    HKDan Reply

    "...If in the future, it becomes necessary to intervene on the ground in the ME or Africa(I'm thinking along the lines of another Rwanda scenario), it should be done as a part of a larger effort and could perhaps draw on the heavy armor of regional allies to some extent. The frame of reference I am using here is the recent operation in Libya, where the US was able to play an essential role, while also requiring allies to make a significant contribution..."

    How meaningful do you wish this response? You offer Rwanda on one end and Libya on the other. Might I suggest there's little point to intervening in a Rwandan scenario if not immediately and with both significant force along with orders to match.

    Further, your Libyan scenario suggests that American tactical and operational freedom of action be tied to heavy armor support provided by others. While I don't recall Europe or others providing heavy armor in Libya I do recall that Mogadishu stands as a stark warning against such. Finally, I have no real proof of the interoperability of our infantry with foreign armor elements. I have, however, excellent validation of the same with our own organic resources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HKDan View Post
    I do accept your suggestion that one motivation behind these cuts is the relative ease that they can be politically accepted in the US. Also, that a reduction of forces in Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, will likely result in some loss of influence. Still, whenever I hear the suggestion that the US maintain forces for ease of deployment to the ME, it reminds me of the time Robert Gates said that anyone suggesting that America get involved in a land war in Asia again should have their "head examined." That is not to say that there isn't the possibility of some future engagement in this volatile region, but that it is to be avoided if possible. If in the future, it becomes necessary to intervene on the ground in the ME or Africa(I'm thinking along the lines of another Rwanda scenario), it should be done as a part of a larger effort and could perhaps draw on the heavy armor of regional allies to some extent. The frame of reference I am using here is the recent operation in Libya, where the US was able to play an essential role, while also requiring allies to make a significant contribution. I think in the current fiscal climate, the two brigades that would remain in Europe should suffice to display regional commitment and be useful as a rapidly deployable force if necessary.
    Don't let Iraq or Afghanistan cloud your vision of what the brigades would be used for. Let's look specifically at what SecDef Gates said:

    The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions. But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

    By no means am I suggesting that the U.S. Army will – or should – turn into a Victorian nation-building constabulary – designed to chase guerrillas, build schools, or sip tea. But as the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations to those in the leadership of the Pentagon, and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, who ultimately make policy and set budgets.

    What we can expect in the future is that potential adversaries – be they terrorists, insurgents, militia groups, rogue states, or emerging powers – will seek to frustrate America’s traditional advantages, in particular our ability to shoot, move and communicate with speed and precision.
    Security force assistance and facilitating CT ops are just two possible uses. Much easier to deploy intratheater (or essentially intratheater) vs. intertheater, especially on the scale that the aforementioned missions would require. Also much easier to plan, coordinate and execute if said forces are assigned and not borrowed.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=S2;856958]"...If in the future, it becomes necessary to intervene on the ground in the ME or Africa(I'm thinking along the lines of another Rwanda scenario), it should be done as a part of a larger effort and could perhaps draw on the heavy armor of regional allies to some extent. The frame of reference I am using here is the recent operation in Libya, where the US was able to play an essential role, while also requiring allies to make a significant contribution..."

    How meaningful do you wish this response? You offer Rwanda on one end and Libya on the other. Might I suggest there's little point to intervening in a Rwandan scenario if not immediately and with both significant force along with orders to match.
    The Rwanda example is why I consider the 173rd Airborne a unit that should stay in Europe as oppose to the two heavy brigades that are being withdrawn. Such a scenario does require an immediate response as you said, which is something that could be provided by by airborne infantry, but not by a heavy mech unit. On the "orders to match" side of thing, any unit of any size could be rendered ineffective by this be it an Airborne Brigade or all of III Corps. It is a prerequisite that any intervention be well thought out and the soldiers involved given a task that is both meaningful and achievable, this has not always been the case, but responsibility for that is not on the force structure side but the leadership side.

    Further, your Libyan scenario suggests that American tactical and operational freedom of action be tied to heavy armor support provided by others. While I don't recall Europe or others providing heavy armor in Libya I do recall that Mogadishu stands as a stark warning against such. Finally, I have no real proof of the interoperability of our infantry with foreign armor elements. I have, however, excellent validation of the same with our own organic resources.
    Perhaps Libya wasn't a good example due to the absence of a land component, but it does provide an example of an international effort that was ultimately successful while requiring allies to make significant contributions. The Mogadishu experience is a valuable lesson in the importance of armor, but I do believe that that situation would have turned out very differently if the rapid reaction force had been a Stryker Company rather than drawn from the 10th Mountain Division.

    I am not suggesting that the US entirely remove itself from the region or Europe, only that if cuts need to be made(and I think they are inevitable), two heavy brigades in Germany don't seem like the worst place to start. What will remain still leaves a force that is capable of rapid deployment and the Stryker regiment does give it some armor. Perhaps I should not have mentioned relying on the heavy armor of allies, that may be a poor solution for that problem. Despite the loss of influence and capability that will come hand in hand with any reduction of forces, I still feel that removing the two heavy brigades is not a bad solution.

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    HKDan Reply

    "...Such a scenario does require an immediate response as you said, which is something that could be provided by by airborne infantry..."

    Only if that response is developed and implemented on a timely basis. Doing so unilaterally eliminates some of the impediments but that would seem in conflict with the general thrust of your musings.

    I've posted elsewhere on this but we may be seeing the transformation of the nature of conflict where nation-states lack the agility to respond rapidly and with adroit focus. It is not an easily-achieved skill. The awakenings witnessed by the "arab spring" still appear to leave Washington, D.C. and other capitals befuddled with their response one year later. Yes on Libya, sorta on Egypt, no way on Syria, and WTF are we really going to do with Bahrain? Yemen? I haven't even really touched on central Africa. My bet is our senior civilian leadership hasn't really done so either and our military's idea of supporting such "if and when" is dusting off ten-year old plans with an updated INTSUM.

    Believe it or not, I'm not even inclined to think our strategically-agile forces like an airborne infantry component are really all that agile or trained to seamlessly slide from OOTW to mid-intensity conflict at the blink of an eye. Nor the intelligence and logistics apparatus that will support and sustain what may be called upon down the road.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    I've posted elsewhere on this but we may be seeing the transformation of the nature of conflict where nation-states lack the agility to respond rapidly and with adroit focus. It is not an easily-achieved skill. The awakenings witnessed by the "arab spring" still appear to leave Washington, D.C. and other capitals befuddled with their response one year later. Yes on Libya, sorta on Egypt, no way on Syria, and WTF are we really going to do with Bahrain? Yemen? I haven't even really touched on central Africa. My bet is our senior civilian leadership hasn't really done so either and our military's idea of supporting such "if and when" is dusting off ten-year old plans with an updated INTSUM.
    I think you are absolutely right, and I see this as really a greater difficulty than the actual operations side of the equation, although I read your comments below with much interest. The ability to interpret the events in places like you mentioned and then to come up with an appropriate policy is an immense challenge. Doing that with the pressure of a ticking clock...my hat is off to those who would and could take it on. To return to the Rwanda experience, unless actions are taken rapidly, the damage is done. Even if the 173rd had been ready to board aircraft, jump into Kigali, seize the airport, and start to conduct stabilization operations, nothing would have happened until the bosses in DC had been able to make that decision. Could that happen in the time frame necessary to have the desired impact?

    Believe it or not, I'm not even inclined to think our strategically-agile forces like an airborne infantry component are really all that agile or trained to seamlessly slide from OOTW to mid-intensity conflict at the blink of an eye. Nor the intelligence and logistics apparatus that will support and sustain what may be called upon down the road.
    This is something that I find really interesting and will have to defer to your much greater knowledge of how things actually work in this realm. If you could take the time to expand on this I bet I wouldn't be the only reader here interested to hear what you have to say.

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    Security force assistance and facilitating CT ops are just two possible uses. Much easier to deploy intratheater (or essentially intratheater) vs. intertheater, especially on the scale that the aforementioned missions would require. Also much easier to plan, coordinate and execute if said forces are assigned and not borrowed.
    I see the utility of forward deployed forces, and the geographic advantage that stationing them in Europe, so close to potential hotspots in the ME and Africa brings. However, I think that the units that will remain in Europe are the ones better suited to such operations than the ones that are being withdrawn. As for scale, that just might be the kind of thing that isn't on the table anymore as the US struggles to find solutions to its economic dilemma.

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    HKDan Reply

    "...will have to defer to your much greater knowledge of how things actually work in this realm. If you could take the time to expand on this I bet I wouldn't be the only reader here interested to hear what you have to say."

    My knowledge on this matter is non-existent. Shek could comment with authority but, if he did, he'd have to nuke this thread. Things aren't, likely, quite as bad as the picture I've painted...at least on the planning end. Washington D.C., for all its flaws, is FULL of really bright, hard-working people tasked daily to worry about these matters.

    Still, they can only plan within the realm of available operating systems and calculate time-lines upon proven response capabilities. What might lie beyond is the realm of transformation.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    Washington D.C., for all its flaws, is FULL of really bright, hard-working people tasked daily to worry about these matters.
    That has been my experience with most of the few diplomats and military personnel that I have interacted with, but the tasks they are given are often on the extreme side of challenging.

    Shek could comment with authority but, if he did, he'd have to nuke this thread.
    Fair enough, guess that isn't the sort of thing we get to talk about.

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