Before it was simpler: Soviet bloc, bad; everyone else, good; Africa, back-burner.

Now, as new global threats emerge, anything could happen.

The U.S. military in Europe is changing, too. It’s transformation, but for what?

“When you look for formulas and try to summarize them in buzzwords (such as ‘transformation’) – this is much more,” said Anthony H. Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“All of this is a different approach. It assumes NATO and (Europe-based U.S. troops) are not going to fight Russia. In many ways, it is to perform a global role.”

Tomorrow’s military would project peace as much as power while gathering understanding as well as intelligence. And it would still retain the ability to obliterate an enemy when called upon. That’s the plan, anyway.

The transformation agenda that began about five years ago is now getting a fresh, post-Rumsfeld look.

Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, who in December took command of the U.S. European Command, is worried that the current plan — which would decrease U.S. troop strength in Europe from 110,000 to 60,000 over the next several years — would leave him lacking. It has already affected EUCOM’s ability to participate in nation-to-nation training exercises.

So while Craddock and EUCOM re-crunch the troop strength numbers, this much is known:

Big Army divisions are out, and smaller, self-contained brigades are in. The Germany-based 1st Infantry Division has moved back to the U.S., and the 1st Armored Division might. Two brigades of about 4,000 soldiers each would be based in Germany and one of the same size would remain in Italy.Military strategists have shifted the focus of Europe-based troops. The geopolitical “arc of instability,” where enemies might roost or flourish, has moved away from Europe and toward less-stable regions south and east.More World War II-era properties will be closed and given back to Germany, continuing a post-Cold War trend from the 1990s.Since the Russian Bear was brought to its knees, new lines in the sand have been drawn, but they are squiggly and changing. Terrorist attacks, genocides, medical epidemics, and regions of lawlessness are now “the enemy.”

An asymmetric enemy, according to the transformation agenda, requires a versatile plan of attack, and the future U.S. military in Europe would reflect that.

For example, the newly forming Africa Command, headquartered for now in Stuttgart, Germany, would have a State Department official as its second-in-command, and employ a large number of civilians.

The strategy calls for the military to work more closely with other parts of the U.S. government to salve the world’s trouble spots.

“If we can get it together, a lot of these problems are not military,” said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow for the Washington-based Center for American Progress. “There’s a military component to them, but they’re really not.”

Teamwork and ally maintenance was also deemed a high priority of the changing military.

In February, the NATO Special Operations Coordination Center — designed to harmonize the training of special-operations troops from NATO’s 26 member nations — was established in Stuttgart with a U.S. two-star admiral at the helm.

Over the next two years, U.S. troops also will begin rotating to bases in Romania and Bulgaria to train with forces there.

And, the military has been increasing its reach by establishing at least 21 cooperative security locations in Africa and Eastern Europe. The locations are bare-boned now but can be made operational when necessary.

Cordesman, the strategy analyst, noted that the Navy and Air Force still can project military power through long-range strikes. But key battles, he said, would now be fought with boots on the ground, sometimes even hiking boots and sneakers.

“You need to redefine the civil-military relationship so you can work with aid organizations, (nongovernmental organizations), and police forces to help nations develop security and stability,” Cordesman said.

Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, said tomorrow’s military in Europe is being shaped by today’s problems.

“What Iraq in particular and Afghanistan taught us is that we’re powerful, but we’re not omnipotent,” Korb said. “If we want to keep the support of the American people, we’ve got to get other countries to work with you.”

Five years ago, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent marching orders to Marine Gen. James L. Jones, telling him that the U.S. European Command needed an overhaul to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century.Jones’ plan, started in 2002, called for the moving of thousands of troops from Europe back to the United States, moving troops into Eastern Europe and setting up forward operating sites in Africa.But now, Jones’ successor — Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock — is questioning whether pulling troops out of Europe during this time of war is a prudent measure.Stars and Stripes reviews the status of the military’s transformation in Europe in a series of stories that look at the past, present and future.

The stories:DAY 1:EUCOM leaders address transformation issuesDAY 2: A look at troop strength through the yearsDAY 3:How the military closes its basesDAY 4: Stateside bases get ready for influx of troopsDAY 5: Air Force, Navy also getting new lookTODAY: The impact of politics on transformation

Today's related story:Ideas shifting, but DOD plans remain the same

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