STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Army Europe appears to be moving quickly to implement a Defense Department plan to scale back the number of general officers across the force.
Two recent announcements indicate that USAREUR is leading the way in putting Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan into action.
Last week, the DOD announced that Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling would take over for Gen. Carter Ham, who is moving to U.S. Africa Command. Traditionally, the U.S. Army Europe commander’s post has been held by a four-star general.
Also — as part of a broader reorganization at USAREUR — Maj. Gen. Terry A. Wolff assumed duties as the new deputy commanding general and chief of staff on Tuesday, marking the first in a series of leadership changes to come for the command. That job is usually filled by a three-star general.
Wolff also will continue to serve as the commander of 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden, which is preparing to redeploy later this year to Fort Bliss, Texas.
In January, Gates outlined plans to cut $78 billion in programs and reduce the force by 70,000. One small part of the wide-ranging quest for efficiencies was a decision to trim the number of general officers.
Could Hertling’s nomination — without the promotion — be part of Gates’ plan?
A confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled for Hertling, who was nominated by President Barack Obama last month to serve as USAREUR’s next chief. However, if confirmed, he will keep his current rank, according to Tara Andringa, spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who serves as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.
“He (Hertling) has been nominated to remain a lieutenant general, i.e. 3-star,” Andringa wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
Army and European Command officials at the Pentagon say no decision has been made regarding the future of U.S. Army Europe.
USAREUR, with roughly 40,000 soldiers under its umbrella, is the largest service component in Europe.
While it appears USAREUR is pushing forward with changes to its command structure, the other branches will get more time to make the conversion to three-star components.
The change to U.S. Navy Europe will take place over a longer period because of that command’s unique role in the NATO transformation effort, Gates said during his January speech that detailed some of the changes to come.
Meanwhile, U.S. Air Forces in Europe received a new four-star commander, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, in December, just a couple weeks before Gates’ announcement. Welsh likely will serve out the traditional two-year command term.
Officials at USAFE on Tuesday said they have received no indication from the Pentagon about any imminent changes to its command structure.
In addition to the elimination of three four-star billets, there will be “concurrent streamlining in the headquarters and personal staff,” according to Gates. “The four-star components have become too large and too senior given the number of troops they lead and the military operations they oversee.”
Currently, Hertling is a deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. If his nomination is approved by the Senate, Hertling would become the 36th commanding general of USAREUR.
Ham is slated to replace Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward as the commander of U.S. Africa Command, which also is headquartered in Germany.