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While there might be strategic advantages to a large forward-deployed presence, doing business in Europe isn’t cheap. High costs of living, housing allowances and schools for dependents add up.

The exact costs are hard to measure. A GAO analysis in February showed that of the $17.2 billion obligated by the services to support installations in Europe between 2006 and 2009, about $13 billion was for operation and maintenance costs.

Because a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis is not included in EUCOM’s theater posture plan, the Pentagon lacks critical information that could be used by decision-makers deliberating future force structure requirements, the GAO reported.

Though the GAO did not include a cost comparison of operating in Europe versus the U.S., the Congressional Research Service estimated that 15 years ago, the total annual cost of basing 100,000 U.S. forces from all services in Europe was $1 billion to $2 billion extra.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office in 2004 estimated that forward-deploying 56,000 Army forces in Europe costs taxpayers about $1 billion extra each year. Since then, the Army has reduced its size to 42,000, though the overall force level in Europe remains about 80,000.

If the Pentagon intends to orchestrate a big drawdown, the amount of savings will depend on whether units will be inactivated or rotated to the U.S., according to experts. A large rotation stateside also would involve a significant investment to build new facilities.

“Manpower reductions save huge amounts of money and save it quickly,” said retired Adm. Steve Abbot, former deputy commander of EUCOM and the U.S.’s Sixth Fleet. “Moving units around is a more complicated calculation. What’s the cost of moving going to be?”

While savings could be achieved over the long term, the Pentagon would probably need to invest significant funds to build new facilities in the U.S.

“To bring those troops home will cost a lot of money -- money that we don’t have,” said Retired Gen. Charles Wald, a former deputy commander of EUCOM.

-- John Vandiver

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