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Navy Secretary Gordon England talks with military personnel and their families Sunday at Naval Station Rota, Spain's galley. England wrapped up a trip to the Middle East and Europe on Sunday.

Navy Secretary Gordon England talks with military personnel and their families Sunday at Naval Station Rota, Spain's galley. England wrapped up a trip to the Middle East and Europe on Sunday. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Navy Secretary Gordon England said Sunday the Navy’s presence in Europe would change as the Pentagon revamps its force structure overseas, but he offered no specifics.

“I think Navy Europe is going to be a part of this total transformation,” he said during a visit to Rota. “We are looking at how we deploy our forces, how we train our forces. We’re looking at the size of our force. We’re looking at our equipment.

“That’s an ongoing process. There’s really no decision in terms of changes here in Europe. But it is something we talk about all of the time.”

The Defense Department is in the process of reviewing the number of troops and bases located overseas, including the roughly 112,000 U.S. servicemembers stationed in Europe.

England stopped in Rota and had breakfast with military personnel and their families at the base galley.

The secretary’s visit came after wrapping up a trip to the Middle East, where he visited sailors and Marines in Bahrain and celebrated Thanksgiving aboard the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier.

Throughout his tour, England thanked sailors and Marines for doing their part in the global war on terrorism. He called the Rota base — home to nearly 7,000 Americans — an “important piece of real estate for the U.S. Navy.”

The base served as a hub for troops, supplies and ships during the buildup for the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.

“I thank you for your crucial roles in this. … What you do is vital,” he told about 55 people who ate omelets and pancakes with the secretary.

After the meal, England said he did not know yet what types of changes are in store for bases in Europe.

“I don’t know if it’s going to get bigger or smaller, but I’m sure it will get different,” he told Stars and Stripes. “Because it always gets different.

“Just this base here in Rota, right? We’re investing in this base. We’re going to expand the docks. We’re making changes here and we’re doing that at a lot of our bases.”

The Pentagon plans to spend at least $500 million to modernize and improve this naval station, which is owned by Spain and celebrated its 50th birthday this year.

Looking toward the near and long-term future, England said there are plans to send about 20,000 Marines to Iraq to take on rebuilding duties, but more could be on the way. On Wednesday, military officials announced that they would send three more battalions in addition to the 20,000 who have already received the call to go.

“We’re talking about how many more,” England said.

The introduction of the Navy’s DD(X) destroyer should boost the overall number of ships in the fleet, he said.

The design — which makes the ship look more like a submarine — should be finished around 2005. The Navy hopes to receive the first DD(X) by 2009, but England said the Navy could use them now.

“We would like to buy a lot of littoral combat ships,” he said.

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