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German mayors plan Washington trip to dissuade U.S. military base relocation

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 27, 2008

STUTTGART, Germany — The German mayors of Heidelberg and Mannheim, in a bid to forestall a plan that calls for the relocation of Army headquarters to Wiesbaden, are planning a trip to Washington in the hope of persuading the new administration to reverse course.

Eckart Wüerzner of Heidelberg and Peter Kurz of Mannheim told the Wiesbadener Kurier that they will visit the U.S. capital in January to make their case.

Wüerzner told the paper that the move from Heidelberg does not make sense because it will be very expensive for the U.S.

He also said the departure of troops would have a negative impact on the local economy.

Wiesbaden’s Mayor Helmut Müller, however, says he considers the effort by his counterparts in Heidelberg and Mannheim to be a long shot.

Countering the argument of cost — something that could perhaps carry new weight in light of the current economic crisis in the U.S — Müller contends that concentrating forces in Wiesbaden will provide a savings to the U.S. in the long-run.

U.S. Army Europe says it can’t put a total price tag on the cost of the move because it involves projects still being planned.

One major project already is under way, though.

"I would note that construction in support of the 7th Army headquarters move to Wiesbaden includes a new Command and Control facility, and this facility was fully authorized and incrementally funded at $59.5M (million) in the FY 09 MILCON bill," USAREUR spokesman Bruce Anderson said in a prepared statement.

The command facility is one of many projects planned for Wiesbaden as the military prepares to relocate the 5th Signal Command and 7th Army as well as the ongoing move of the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade this year, Anderson said.

Under Army transformation, V Corps and U.S. Army Europe will inactivate this summer and re-form as 7th Army.

Eventually, 7th Army headquarters will be transferred to Wiesbaden, which is now home to the 1st Armored Division’s headquarters.

The move, however, can’t happen until 1st AD relocates to Fort Bliss, Texas, which isn’t expected to happen for at least a couple of years.

There’s no set timetable, Anderson said.

"Final dates for the move of 7th Army are event driven and depend on Congressional approval of future construction, host nation notifications, and our operational commitments," Anderson said in the statement.

Anderson said he was aware of the interest the German government at the local and state level had in keeping a strong U.S. presence in Heidelberg and Mannheim.

"We work closely with our hosts to keep them informed about our activities and plans and will continue to do so. However, it would be inappropriate for us to be involved in or try to influence in any way host nation political actions," Anderson said.

Stars and Stripes’ Marcus Klöckner contributed to this report.


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