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European edition, Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Pentagon is still weighing recommendations made by the U.S. European Command regarding its future troop strength in Europe.

The recommendations were part of a troop-to-task analysis ordered by the EUCOM commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock. The analysis was delivered June 26 to the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“General Craddock’s proposal is still being reviewed by the department,” Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “No decisions have been made.”

Vician said that was the only information he could provide on the subject. When asked for details of Craddock’s proposal, Vician said those details were part of ongoing internal discussions.

As part of a militarywide transformation that began taking shape in 2002, plans were announced that would reduce the U.S. Army’s troop strength in Europe from 62,000 soldiers to 24,000 by around the year 2010.

Since then, the number of soldiers has been reduced to about 44,000, notably including the 2006 departure to the U.S. of most of the Würzburg, Germany-based 1st Infantry Division.

The Navy and Air Force have been making similar restructurings in Europe.

Craddock told Congress in the spring that under current transformation plans, he was concerned there might not be enough Europe-based troops for EUCOM to carry out its missions, primarily its European and African theater security cooperation efforts with nations in those regions. Those efforts include military-to-military training and regional coordination exercises.

Among the factors affecting those efforts was the ongoing rotation of Europe-based forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, Craddock said.

Last week, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe said the Army’s downsizing plan was just that — a plan.

No definite announcements have been made, for example, that two Germany-based brigades — the Schweinfurt-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and the Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division — would be moving to the U.S.

“We have a plan in place for the transformation of [USAREUR] and will continue to move forward with that plan unless otherwise directed by the [Army] and [U.S. European Command, which oversees the U.S. military in Europe],” said Bruce Anderson, the USAREUR spokesman.

“We will continue to keep our soldiers, employees and families informed of our transformation activities,” Anderson said.

On July 20, Gen. Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience of Schweinfurt soldiers and family members that the Defense Department was considering stopping the drawdown of troops in Europe.

Neither Germany-based brigade would be heading back to the States soon.

The Baumholder brigade is scheduled to deploy to Iraq around February, and its soldiers would return to Germany sometime in early- to mid-2009, if current rotation schedules are maintained.

The Schweinfurt brigade currently is deployed to Iraq and scheduled to return to Germany in the fall. Its soldiers could be deployed again to Iraq or Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the 1st Armored Division commander, told Stars and Stripes in April.

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