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ARLINGTON, Va. — The process of adjusting U.S. forces around the world, including returning some troops now stationed abroad could last through 2010, senior Pentagon leaders told members of the House on Wednesday.

“What we’re going to have is a process that rolls for months and years,” Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a House Armed Services hearing on the realignment of the global defense posture.

Defense leaders have completed an internal analysis and consulted with their counterparts both in countries where U.S. troops are likely to be drawn down, such as South Korea and Germany, and countries where the Bush administration is considering new posts, such as Bulgaria and Romania, Feith said.

Pentagon officials have come to grips with “gross numbers of how many forces we expect to bring back to the United States,” Feith said.

Defense officials plan to present their conclusions in a report to Congress in July, he said.

Some committee members said that the administration already has taken too much time developing its plan, and not worked enough with Congress in the process.

The report “was supposed to be completed on July 1, 2003,” said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Mo. “Why has it taken so long?”

Marine Lt. Gen. James Cartwright, the Joint Staff’s director of force structure, resources and assessment, replied that developing the plan “has been difficult” and “more complicated than we thought it would be.

“We’re trying to work on that,” Cartwright said.

Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, said that the Bush administration has not expended effort in consulting with Congress on the posture plan.

“What we know about [the plan] is what we read in the news media,” Ortiz said.

Rep. Joel Hefley, a Republican from Colorado, also said the HASC members have been left in the dark, leading to embarrassment when constituents turn to their elected leaders for information.

“People ask us questions, and we don’t have any answers,” Hefley said.

The Pentagon leaders worked to soothe ruffled feathers.

“Congress has an important role to play here, in many respects,” Feith said.

Ray DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, promised to outline “the major muscle moves … the major building blocks” of the review to the HASC committee during a closed, classified briefing to follow.

Along with the big picture, Pentagon leaders also have developed “specific ideas about which units we might want to move where, and what kind of facilities we may want to put in different places,” Feith said.

Feith declined to offer any specifics during the open hearing, but like DuBois, pledged to share more information with House members in the classified session.

And “within a few weeks,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will go to the White House to offer President Bush “a package of fairly specific ideas,” Feith said.

However, what Bush will decide, “is not that [the plan] is going to happen, because we can’t decide that unilaterally,” Feith said. Instead, the president will decide “that he’d like to pursue a general set of ideas.”

From there, State Department and defense officials will “move forward from consultations to negotiations with the specific countries involved, and see if we can work out various things,” Feith said.

The plan is likely to change as a result of those negotiations, Feith said.

“Some of what we’re planning … is not doable [either] because we can’t get the kinds of legal arrangements or [we can’t get the] commitments that we want.”

On the other hand, “We may find that some countries are so eager to work with us on certain things that the deals they’re offering us induce us to change some of our plans.”

Regardless, the repositioning process will be a long one, opening up the likelihood that U.S. units will remain stationed where they are overseas for several more years, DuBois said.

“Units returning to the United States may not happen in 2006 and 2007,” DuBois said. “It may happen in 2008, 2009, 2010.”

Hefley said he was particularly concerned about the realignment’s potential effect on military families, since Pentagon leaders have sketched a scenario in which most families are based in the United States while their sponsors are sent periodically sent overseas for several months at a time for training exercises or missions.

Although extended separations are understandable in wartime, in times of peace, “I would be very reluctant to separate military families more than they already are,” Hefley said.

Feith said that the administration’s plans “should actually contribute to a better situation for families than currently exists.”

He described instances in which families move with their sponsor overseas, only to have the servicemember deploy to yet another place, leaving his dependents alone in a foreign country.

“One of the goals” of the global posture readjustment, Feith said, “is to alleviate those problems.”

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