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Lawmakers opt against European pullout, for now

Feb. 3, 2013 - 09:57AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 3, 2013 - 09:57AM  |  
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Good news for soldiers and families who look forward to a European duty station: A congressional push to close all bases has been stalled.

The House Armed Services Committee authorized and requested the president pull all permanent troops out of Europe. The Senate wasn't as keen on the issue. As a result, the effort — contrary to an Army Times story in the Feb. 4 print edition — didn't make it into the final version the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama.

The Army Times story was based upon the House version of the NDAA. The language about removing U.S. forces from Europe was stripped from the final bill signed by the president.

But that doesn't mean this fight is over. The effort to pull troops out of Europe gained significant momentum among lawmakers last year. Many are not happy that European nations have failed to invest in defense spending as promised, leaving the U.S. to pick up the check.

In its version of the 2013 NDAA, the House included this statement:

"Congress finds that, because defense spending among European NATO countries fell 12 percent since 2008, from $314 billion to $275 billion, so that currently only four out of the 28 NATO allies of the United States are spending the widely agreed-to standard of 2 percent of their GDP on defense, the United States must look to more wisely allocate scarce resources to provide for the national defense."

The House Armed Services Committee called for the return of all troops from Europe and specifically identified the brigade combat teams stationed there. Lawmakers said the use of rotational Army deployments would be "sufficient to permit the United States to satisfy the commitments undertaken by United States pursuant to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty … address the current security environment in Europe and contribute to peace and stability in Europe."

A 2012 amendment that looked to cut U.S. troop presence by half failed with a dismal vote of 96-322. But the effort, bolstered by Europe's lack of investment and Congress' lack of money, passed the House late last year with a vote of 226-196.

The 170th BCT stationed in Baumholder, Germany, was deactivated last year, and the 172nd BCT stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany, will be deactivated this year. Army analysis said these reductions would save $2 billion over 10 years.

The consolidation of headquarters for U.S. Army Europe, 5th Signal Command and a military intelligence brigade in Wiesbaden also permits the closure of communities in Mannheim, Heidelberg, and Darmstadt.

U.S. forces in Europe have decreased from almost 400,000 troops and civilians at the height of the Cold War to approximately 80,000 military personnel.

The centerpiece for ground stability and power projection remains the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, the 173rd Airborne BCT in Vicenza, Italy, and U.S.-based Army units that will rotate to Europe.

The Army in 2015 will have about 30,000 soldiers remaining.

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