Last year, the House of Representatives passed an amendment that called for the removal of all four U.S. Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) currently based in Europe. This year, four Congressmen want to take it a step further, seriously undermining U.S. national security interests.
Representatives Mike Coffman (R–CO), Morgan Griffith (R–VA), Jared Polis (D–CO), and Earl Blumenauer (D–OR) propose to end the permanent basing of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, and return the BCT currently stationed in Europe to the United States. Neither would be replaced.
U.S. forces in Europe primarily serve U.S. interests. For one, U.S. troops stationed in Europe are close to some of the most dangerous regions in the world, such as the Middle East. The tragedy of Benghazi and an absence of U.S. forces in the face of an overwhelming threat serve as a stark reminder of just how important U.S. forces are to protecting Americans abroad. Potential instability in Russia, the Arctic, Iran, Asia Minor, the Caspian Sea, North Africa, and adjacent transportation corridors are incredibly important for the well-being and prosperity of the U.S.
Moreover, significant reductions in European basing have been underway for years. The U.S. Army has downsized from 245 installations to 145 installations between 2003 and 2010. The Air Force has reduced aircraft and forces stationed in Europe by 75 percent since 1990. In March 2013, the Army sent its 22 remaining battle tanks in Germany back to the U.S.—the first time in 69 years that there is no U.S. tank stationed on German soil.
Bases in Europe also facilitate the flow of supplies to U.S. troops in need. Many Americans were saved in top-notch medical facilities in Europe after being injured during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A permanent U.S. presence assures allies and deters enemies. It increases the U.S.’s chances of advancing military-to-military relations as well as family-to-civilian relationships with the local populations. At a price of less than 1 percent of the overall defense budget, the benefits from such engagements are immeasurable.
Any further reductions should be a part of a strategic review of U.S. interests in Europe. They should not be driven by a desire to slash the defense budget to find savings.
As Heritage’s Luke Coffey puts it, “Whether preparing U.S. and allied troops for Afghanistan or responding to an unexpected crisis in the region, the U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe. Reducing these capabilities would only weaken America on the world stage.”