Experts check Eastern Europe sites as EUCOM readies transformation plan
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. European Command officials said Tuesday that European leaders should have a good idea by March of what to expect of the command’s transformation plan.
At that time, U.S. officials will present their plans to the countries that would be affected by the transformation, EUCOM officials said. The plan could be modified depending on how receptive the countries are to it.
A clear picture should emerge as to which U.S. installations in Europe will remain, change in size or be closed, EUCOM officials said.
U.S. military experts are traveling to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania this week to look at potential sites for new facilities in Eastern Europe as part of a worldwide redrawing of the U.S. military’s structure.
But high-ranking EUCOM officials said the sites the United States will use in Eastern Europe and in Africa for training and forward basing will be relatively small in size and population, flexible and not have facilities for family members.
The changes would not involve the building of large, major operations bases, such as Ramstein Air Base, but rather would rely on smaller, nearly Spartan facilities and training grounds.
Separately, Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, EUCOM’s director of plans and policy, said the types of bases the United States would rely on would be essentially metal lean-tos with concrete floors that the U.S. currently has throughout the world.
They have been built along the coast of West Africa where they can be used to support American troops during training cruises there. They can quickly be converted into dormitories, storage depots and dining facilities.
Also being considered are former Soviet bases, such as the one U.S. forces are using in the former Republic of Georgia to train troops.
“We have no intention of building these elsewhere,” Kohler said, referring to bases such as Ramstein and Rota. There are currently 21 major operating bases in Europe.
Contractors could manage the new-style bases when U.S. forces aren’t there, and they also could be used by other nations for training. They would be run in conjunction with host countries.
The officials discussed various ways to use the facilities, which included rotating troops through on longer-range missions, such as the six- to nine-month tours in the Balkans, or for shorter-term assignments, such as the 90-day tours employed by the Air Force.
Kohler also said the dialogue with potential host countries is tentative, explaining that no U.S. transformation plans are yet definite. “We don’t want to raise expectations,” he said.
A final decision from President Bush on what EUCOM transformation will look like is unclear, but command officials believe it will come in the next two to five months. Before then, U.S. Department of Defense officials will consult with the countries that could possibly host the new facilities.
A first round of talks was in December, and the key U.S. representatives were Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman. During the last visit, Feith and Grossman, separately, visited a total of about a dozen countries, including Germany, Poland, France, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Iceland, Russia and Spain.
Other places that have been mentioned for EUCOM’s new bases include Slovakia, Croatia and even Albania.
NATO is also considering Poland as a training ground, which adds to its appeal for the United States. For the past decade, U.S. troops have already trained there nearly every year.
And although a decision on which American installations in Europe will shut down or scale back will come relatively soon, where displaced troops go will not be determined until at least next year, after the Base Realignment and Closure process is completed.
BRAC, mandated by Congress, determines which bases remain open and which close in the United States.