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Budget cuts mean fewer troops for Africa missions

Marine Corps Martial Arts instructors demonstrate techniques during a martial arts class October 10, 2013, in Benin, Africa, where dozens of U.S. troops met with Benin Armed Forces to work on different tactical procedures in order to build on their maritime security capabilities.

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Africa Command is planning for a smaller training mission on the continent as it contends with a shrinking budget brought on by the Pentagon’s fiscal crunch, AFRICOM’s Gen. David Rodriguez said on Thursday.

During a news briefing in London, Rodriguez said AFRICOM could lose some $40 million from its 2014 budget.

Cuts to AFRICOM’s headquarters and assorted training programs mean the command will likely need to scale back the size of some exercises, Rodriguez said.

“The budget is going to be reduced ... although I would expect that the number of places where we have exercises will remain approximately the same,” Reuters reported Rodriguez as saying.

In July, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that military combatant commands would be forced to shave 20 percent from their respective headquarters, many of which had steadily grown during the past decade.

Stuttgart-based AFRICOM was formed in 2007 in recognition of Africa’s growing strategic importance. Much of the command’s work has centered on training African militaries engaged in the fight against terrorism in places such as Somalia and Mali.

“We’ve had to reduce the size of some of these exercises and change the nature of some ... to involve fewer troops,” said Rodriguez, in comments quoted by Reuters.

In recent years, officials at AFRICOM have signaled that a tougher budget environment meant the command would need to focus more on national security threats than some of the more soft-power programs it had touted at its launch. That shift has materialized as AFRICOM has added to its fold new special operations units and two Africa-focused Marine task forces dedicated to crisis response and counterterrorism activities.

Against a backdrop of budget cuts across the Defense Department, critics have called into question the need for AFRICOM and a headquarters based in Germany. While some in Congress have lobbied to move the command to the U.S. as a cost-saving measure, Pentagon officials have said there are no plans to move the headquarters.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

 

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