¶ European reaction story

¶ Pacific reaction story

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army’s two heavy divisions in Germany, the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions, will relocate to the United States, but not for at least two to three years, Pentagon officials said Monday.

“From a very realistic standpoint, this would mean that families living overseas now — perhaps halfway through their tours — will more than likely not be affected by this move,” said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’ll finish their tour and come ‘home’ before the wheels start moving on the process. Moving vans won’t be pulling up next week.”

The earliest that troops will be pulled from Germany will be 2006, after the process of realigning and closure of stateside bases is under way, said senior defense and state department officials who spoke Monday of with reporters at the Pentagon on condition of anonymity.

Exactly when and where those divisions will move to depends on results of the independent commission studying Base Realignment And Closure, the official said. By May 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must submit to the commission a list of selected bases.

While BRAC does not affect overseas bases, it will be a factor in where the military will redeploy overseas forces. Between 1988 and 1995, four BRAC commissions proposed changes to 152 major installations and 235 smaller ones.

After a three-year study, Pentagon plans to move many as 70,000 U.S. troops over the next decade and about 100,000 family members and civilian employees, President Bush announced Monday while speaking at the Veterans of Foreign War convention in Cincinnati.

“Over the coming decade we’ll deploy a more agile and more flexible force, which means that more of our troops will be stationed and deployed from here at home,” Bush said.

“We will move some of our troops and capabilities to new locations so they can surge quickly to deal with unexpected threats.”

The reposturing of forces will have no impact on lengths of tour of troops now deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said.

The Army’s V Corps will stay in Germany, and will “be restructured to be more deployable and will have a number of combat elements associated,” said a senior defense official said.

A much lighter and rapidly deployable Stryker brigade will be stationed in Germany and “associated” with V Corps, he said, without providing further details.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, is gaining a brigade, and two F-16 squadrons will remain each at Aviano Air Base in Italy and Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, the official said.

Those not sent to stateside bases could move posts in Eastern Europe, though most likely for shorter deployment and likely without families, officials said. But, “we’re not looking to take forces … in Europe today and station them in the East,” a defense official said.

The reposturing of troops is not intended to eventually lead to a draw down in end-strength.

It’s a move long overdue, said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative libertarian think tank.

“It is absurd that the United States has continued to station 100,000 troops in Europe,” he continued.

“Since the demise of the Soviet Union, there is no serious security threat on the continent.”

However, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidate, lambasted the Bush plan on CNN, saying the redeployment from Europe and Asia would "significantly undermine U.S. national security.

“This ill-conceived move and its timing seem politically motivated rather than designed to strengthen our national security,” said Clark, who served as the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe from 1997 to 2000.

While on the campaign trail, Bush said the repositioning of forces would help stabilize troops' lives and help the country save money.

“Our servicemembers will have more time on the home front and more predictability and fewer moves over a career,” Bush said. “Our military spouses will have fewer job changes, greater stability, more time for their kids and to spend time with their families at home.”

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