The Pentagon has requested (to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel) base closures and consolidations of bases in Europe in the US support of NATO, worried about renewed Russian aggression in its annexation of the Ukraine by President Putin.
Last month the Pentagon announced the closure of 21 outdated facilities in Europe that will save $60 million per year. Further restructuring will save more, recently requested to Department of Defense. The program began one year ago.
The Pentagon is seeking deficiencies and correcting them in order to provide Congress visibility of downsizing US military presence overseas.
Most concerned is the former Warsaw Pact states, especially Poland, where leaders have requested a permanent presence of US military in their nation. It seems that Putin's yearning for the “good old days” when he was a KGB officer in the Soviet Union has pointed toward gobbling up satellite states once again, under Russian control. Ronald Reagan began the end and draw down of the Cold War when the Berlin Wall was removed. By late 1980s and early 1990s this led to restructuring of military forces, especially the US Army; where quick reactionary forces were developed with improved air power hardware and equipment that down sized the military through the use of high tech firepower and equipment for quick reactionary units that were capable to handle emergency situations. This development of quick reaction forces able to reach hot spots more quickly is part of the inquiry as to why personnel at Benghazi embassy defended themselves for 7-8 hours without any aid from nearby units designed for those operations. It was not the fault of the special forces available or the nearby air power facilities – but the decision by the “commander-in-chief” to stand down and not respond. This left four personnel including Ambassador Stevens alone to fight off the attack upon the American facility there.
John Deni, professor at the US Army College offered a warning about Europe giving up too much real estate in connection with base realignment. He stated:
There might be some room for consolidation, but that needs to be weighed against the fact that we diminish our strategic flexibility. Once we close a facility we are never getting it back and we have no way of predicting what future crises might be and where you need them. If there is room for consolidation it will be on the margins of what we have left.
President Obama announced yesterday that he is seeking $1 billion from Congress for a new European Reassurance Initiative, which would aim to increase troop rotations on the Continent and help train allies.
The changes will take place in England and Germany, the latter accounting for the most US military presence in Europe. Schweinfurt and Bamberg facilities is scheduled to close this year. The US Army is scrutinizing the Baumholder garrison to see if it could be included in the closure list.
Meanwhile, President Obama is heading to Europe on Air Force One to reassure allies that the US is still committed to NATO.
The trip is planned for four days to Poland, Belgium and France. He will also be attending the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion landings in France. Obama may see President Putin, because the French president is scheduled to meet with Putin after the D-Day memorial ceremonies.
Obama will take part in ceremonies at Omaha Beach and Sword Beach.