Second round of talks on EUCOM’s transformation plans to begin soon
January 7, 2004
STUTTGART, Germany — A second round of diplomatic talks to address implementation of the U.S. European Command’s transformation plan is slated for this month or February.
The discussions are the next step as the Department of Defense fine-tunes what shape EUCOM will take in the future, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, EUCOM spokesman, said.
However, announcement of a formal transformation plan could still be some time away, a DOD spokesman said.
Army Maj. Paul Swiergosz said hammering out plan details with host nations could be quite time-consuming.
“This is not just about bases,” said Swiergosz, a DOD spokesman in the Pentagon. “It is about infrastructure, movement of people, [status of forces agreements].”
Department of Defense officials, in tandem with top-ranking representatives of EUCOM’s plans and policy directorate, will meet in a few weeks with their counterparts from about a dozen countries.
A schedule of the meetings is still being worked out, Haupt and Swiergosz said.
The first round of talks was in December and the key U.S. representatives were Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.
“It was a real whirlwind,” Haupt said.
The next round, Swiergosz said, will be conducted by less prominent people who will get into the details of any transformation plan.
He cautioned that transformation is not about reducing the U.S. footprint in Europe, but rather about re-evaluating how EUCOM can better organize itself in the context of the global security picture.
Some hurdles that need to be cleared for EUCOM’s transformation plan, such as SOFA, are easier to reach than the details, such as what happens to existing infrastructure currently being used by American forces, he said.
Swiergosz said those intricate, but important, parts could take years to hammer out.
After meeting with German officials last month, Grossman characterized the meetings as having a broad tone, and noted that the talks did not go into specifics, such as troop size and base closures.
“In fact, one of the things that we did very specifically here today was to try to keep this conversation at the level of ideas and concepts, because we felt that if people can understand what it is that is motivating us — in the same way that NATO is motivated to change, in the same way that the German armed forces are motivated to change — that it would be helpful in understanding what changes will come,” Grossman said after meeting with German officials, according to a transcript provided by EUCOM.
During the last visit, Feith and Grossman, separately, visited a total of about a dozen countries, including Germany, Poland, France, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Iceland, Russia and Spain.
The EUCOM transformation plan, spearheaded by EUCOM Commander Marine Gen. James Jones, has sparked speculation by Europeans and American military personnel as to how quickly it will occur and what communities will be affected. Jones has talked of rotating troops to temporary camps in places such as Bulgaria, Romania and Poland in eastern Europe and Djibouti in eastern Africa, while cutting back substantially on the U.S. military presence — currently at about 100,000 troops — elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Germany.
Jones has pledged to keep several German bases, including the air bases at Ramstein and Spangdahlem and the training area in Grafenwöhr, but he never specified which bases would close.
He has said, however, that troops deployed to the Middle East from Europe would be returning home to Europe, and that their home bases would not be closed in their absences.