STUTTGART, Germany — There are many hurdles to clear before the 1st Infantry Division, or any major unit, moves from Europe to the United States.

A stumble over any one of the hurdles could result in plans getting changed or delayed, according to Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command.

“There are many factors that go into the decision-making process to change overseas force structure,” said Haupt, who added that he could not comment on specific plans. “We make plans to best strategically position our forces, but there are diplomatic processes and political realities that take time and very detailed coordination.”

In the case of the Würzburg, Germany-based 1st ID, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 2300.02B, the suggested — and maximum — time line to review and approve a move to the states would be:

Army Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Army Europe commander, would forward his plan to the EUCOM commander, Marine Gen. James L. Jones, at least six months before 1st ID could begin pulling up stakes.Jones would have three months to fine-tune the USAREUR plan before sending his own recommendation up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.The Joint Chiefs would have three weeks to go over Jones’ recommendations before giving its recommendation to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.Rumsfeld and his office would review the plan and coordinate necessary details at the congressional and Cabinet levels, including with the State Department, and set an announcement date, giving the host nation — in this case, Germany — at least 30 days’ notice prior to a public announcement that 1st ID would be leaving Germany.The Defense and State departments would then coordinate a public announcement with the host nation.“Because plans can change and be redirected at any point in the process,” Haupt said, “we simply can’t be more specific about details or a time line right now.”

If the plan to move 1st ID receives final approval, a decision must still be made on where to move it. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, a stateside body that would be determining which bases there will close, remain unchanged, or expand, is expected to begin its months-long process in May.

If the 1st ID is moved, the economic loss suffered by Würzburg and vicinity would be the economic gain of some lucky American community, and the BRAC process is expected to result in a tug of war between members of Congress trying to attract the relocating units to their home districts.

And Congress, ultimately, has to approve the Defense Department’s annual budget and, therefore, has oversight influence on any of the department’s major moves.

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