Troops to Head Home in US Military Cuts | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.05.2005
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Troops to Head Home in US Military Cuts

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed major military cuts across the United States on Friday which would be offset by returning troops from German bases and other European deployments.

Leaving Germany, 60 years after the end of World War II

Leaving Germany, 60 years after the end of World War II

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recommended the closure of 33 bases in the United States on Friday as part of a major reorganization aimed at trimming excess capacity while repositioning US forces for changing global threats. The base cuts will be the first in the United States in 10 years.

"Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving 21st century challenges," Rumsfeld said in a statement announcing the closures.

While the closures will affect those communities around the United States that stand to lose jobs and revenue from the closure or shrinkage of bases in their area, the reductions will be offset by the return of 70,000 troops from Germany to US bases.

German exodus offsets US domestic cuts

About half the US military facilities in Germany are to be vacated, Defense Department officials have indicated although details from Rumfeld's speech referring to specifics in Europe were unavailable.

Conn Baracks in Schweinfurt

US soldiers carrying out security checks in front of the "Conn Barracks" in Schweinfurt, Germany.

"The Army will cut by nearly half the number of installations that it operates and maintains in Europe, should all of these movements come to pass," Raymond DuBois, the acting undersecretary of the army, told reporters last week. "That is a significant amount of money, quote, to be saved, end quote, and reinvested in infrastructure in the United States for those returning forces."

Most of the closures in the United States were army, navy and some air force regional reserve bases and centers, reflecting the Pentagon's desire to move reserve units onto active duty bases to train more closely with the active duty military. Few large active duty bases were marked for closure.

The list will go to an independent nine-member commission for review and possible changes. When the commission finishes, President George W. Bush will submit the final list to Congress to approve or reject the list in its entirety.

While the main focus of the recommendations was on bases in the United States, the proposed closures mark the start of an exodus from bases occupied by the US military in Germany and other western European countries since World War II.

Drawn-out process

Eckkneipe auf Amerikanisch

The Corner Pub may suffer if nearby Rammstein air base is vacated by the United States Air Force.

The four previous rounds of closures in Germany proved traumatic for the communities involved although studies show that most managed to eventually replace the jobs lost through base closures, and some have found innovative uses for the old bases.

The US military has 860 sites in foreign countries, including 305 in Germany, 158 in Japan, and 105 in South Korea.

Global realignment

The closures are linked to a global realignment of US forces that calls for replacing Cold War-era bases in western Europe with a network of logistics hubs, smaller bases, and lightly manned and unmanned operating locations in the world's most unstable regions.

US Soldaten in Deutschland Flugzeug und Panzer Ramstein

US Soldiers load a Bradley tank of the first Infantry Division in a Globemaster C-17 cargo plane on their way to Iraq at Ramstein US Airbase in Germany on Thursday, April 10, 2003.

The strategy calls for keeping combat forces at US bases but have them ready to deploy rapidly to trouble stops anywhere in the world.

Pentagon officials said that in deciding which bases to keep and how to use them they considered for the first time its ability to handle a surge in military activity.

Solely a question of military value?

"We were doing this whole round during the time that we were actively engaged, our forces were actively engaged, which gave a sense of urgency, if you will, to the definition of surge," said Michael Wynne, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The prime criteria for judging whether a base should be cut was its military utility, he said. The economic impact of a closure on the community was a secondary consideration.

"By law, military value is the primary consideration," he said.

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