Amendments to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act could delay troop repositioning, but that is if the plan persists after October at all.
“I am sure if there is a change in government, it will not happen,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., To the Military Times on October 15 during a press call.
From the start, the plan was mired in politics.
President Donald Trump has threatened Germany for years, questioning what the country’s more than 40,000 permanent troops are doing.
In fact, minutes after Esper appeared in a rare Pentagon conference room to unveil the plan on July 29, Trump quipped to reporters outside the White House that Germany was coming.
“The Germans don’t pay their bills,” he said. “They are naughty. That is easy.”
He was referring to goals that NATO member states set for themselves, to account for 2 percent of their gross domestic product by 2024. Several countries have met that benchmark – including Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Poland – but Germany is among most countries that have not.
“They owe NATO billions and they know it,” Trump told reporters a month earlier. “Why should we do what we do if they don’t pay?”
American troops have been stationed in Germany since the end of World War II, for a growing number of reasons. German physical defense is not at the top of that list. Since World War II, that presence has largely existed to prevent the Soviet Union from attacking or attacking its neighbors.
The US base also provides lotus pads for troops deployed to the Middle East and Africa, as well as an important battlefield trauma center in Landstuhl, where thousands of wounded soldiers are being treated with life-threatening injuries.
Recently, as Russia has increased its own military activity along its western border, American troops have been training and training with local forces from the Balkans to the Baltic, so that the history of the Soviet Union does not repeat itself.
Esper’s plan acknowledged the current reality, offering that even though thousands of troops would return to the United States from Germany, they would “begin a continuous rotation further east in the Black Sea region, giving us a more defensive presence to increase deterrence and reassure allies in the area. along NATO’s southeastern wing. “
The plan involved removing a total of 11,900 troops from Germany. About 5,600 will move to other parts of Europe, such as Belgium and Italy. That number also includes 2,500 Air Force personnel who will stay at RAF Mildenhall, UK, rather than complete a long-planned transfer to Germany.
Another 6,400, including files 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will return to the United States and be part of a rotational force to be deployed to Eastern Europe.
But critics have asked the Pentagon where the 12,000 figure came from, and whether ideas like moving the headquarters of the US European Command and US Africa Command to Belgium are just to make mathematics work.
“I don’t think this plan is well thought out and I am concerned about a number of aspects of its implementation,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., Chair of HASC, in the September 30 hearing.
As an insurance policy, Gallego and fellow member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., Adds an amendment to the DPR’s version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which would prevent the Pentagon from reducing troop numbers in Germany.
“Part of what our military is doing is building that alliance and making sure we don’t have to actually use the military,” Smith said during the bill mark-up. “All these things have to be thought about before we announce that we are withdrawing 10,000 troops from Germany. By the way, the president hasn’t made it clear what he’s doing.”
The amendments passed 49-7.
“The president may have his feelings, but this conversation also involves Congress, and Congress has a very different perspective on NATO matters,” Gallego said. “I don’t want this to happen quietly at night.”
Esper told reporters during the July briefing that some units would be ready to start moving out of Germany in “a matter of weeks,” but that everyone remained.
Two Pentagon officials who testified before HASC on Sept. 30 were unable to provide further details about the plans – including a timetable or cost analysis.
“I’m really having trouble connecting the dots with whether this will solve the problem, which in my opinion doesn’t exist,” said Jim Langevin, DR.I.,. “In fact, I think it will create more problems than anything it will solve.”
A Pentagon spokesman told Military Times on Tuesday that, three months later, the concrete transfer of personnel was still nascent.
“We are currently developing plans for the projected movement, which include consultations with our allies and partners in the region, as well as members of Congress,” Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement. “The planning process is expected to take several months to complete.”
And once the plan is laid out, the physical movements will also take a while.
“It’s a matter of physics,” said Retired General Mark Hertling, the former US Army in Europe, during a Gallego press call. “You can’t do it fast.”
As well as moving thousands of troops and their families, their equipment – heavy vehicles on the ground, helicopters for air components – must also return. They, they have to go somewhere.
Many of the Army’s heavily armored units are at Forts Hood and Bliss in Texas, or Fort Riley, Kan. They will fit naturally in terms of posts that have room for vehicle training, but housing, schools, day care centers and more will need sufficient capacity to accommodate thousands of families.
Despite the long waiting time, the Department of Defense is not hedging the plan if Trump loses re-election and withdrawal is no longer a priority, according to Campbell.
“The elections have no impact on the speed of planning,” said Campbell. “This is a very complex set of steps and we want to make sure the plan is right, to carry it out in a way that fulfills Secretary Esper’s intentions of increasing deterrence against Russia and strengthening NATO, while ensuring we look after service members and their families.”