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ARLINGTON, Va. — The head of U.S. Army Europe wants two brigades scheduled to return to the United States to stay in Germany instead.

The move would affect the 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Schweinfurt and Grafenwöhr and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Baumholder. But Gen. Carter Ham has recommended to the head of U.S. European Command that the two brigades remain in Germany indefinitely.

"The two primary issues for me are to have sufficient ground forces to enable us to meet not only our current operational requirements, principally to the [U.S. Central Command] region, but also to maintain the ability to say engaged and exercise with our European allies," he said.

In December, the Army announced that plans to relocate the two brigades to Fort Bliss, Texas, would be delayed, with one unit slated to move to Texas in fiscal 2012 followed by the other in fiscal 2013.

In order to accomplish its missions, U.S. Army Europe needs to maintain its current troop strength of 42,000, Ham said. Deployments downrange have already hampered U.S. Army Europe’s ability to conduct exercises with European and NATO allies.

"If we stay on the current timeline and the pace of operational deployments does not diminish, then … I will continue to have an inability to support the building partner capacity missions to the degree that I think is necessary," he said.

Army officials are currently looking at how keeping one or two of the brigades in Europe would affect housing needs, training and other related issues, he said. There is no timeline for a decision on his recommendation.

U.S. European Command and Pentagon officials still must approve the change for the brigades to stay in Germany. Right now, U.S. Army Europe will work under the assumption that both brigades will return the United States as planned, Ham said.

"The challenge is the longer we go, if the decision is changed, then it is more difficult, probably more costly to change the decision, so a sooner decision would obviously be beneficial," he said.

Units that might stay

the 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Schweinfurt and Grafenwöhr

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Baumholder

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