Transforming EUCOM, Part 1:Plan could shift leaner units closer to hot spots
Stars and Stripes June 15, 2003
Click here to read a letter from Gen. James L. Jones on Transforming EUCOM.
In the four months since Marine Gen. James L. Jones took over the job as commander of the U.S. European Command, he has been blasting away at a military mind-set that he says has not changed with the times.
With marching orders handed directly from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Jones has been crafting a plan to transform the map of U.S. forces in Europe.
“We need to get out of the Cold War-defense-of-Europe mentality,” Jones, the first Marine tapped to lead the Army- and Air Force-dominated formations in Europe, told Stars and Stripes in an April 3 interview.
“We’re in the process of looking at whether our presence — such as it is — is adequate for the job and where is it that we might wish to move in the near future,” he said.
Specifically, Jones wants to consolidate old bases in Europe to cut down on maintenance costs while opening forward outposts designed to tap into better training opportunities and to get closer to potential threats.
If approved by Rumsfeld, Jones’ plan would bring about the most radical changes to forces in Europe since the Iron Curtain collapsed and units that had held the line against the Warsaw Pact suddenly found themselves marching off to a war with Iraq. And just as after the first Gulf War, some of the victors this time around could come home to closing bases and disappearing units.
But this time there also coule be significant movements in new directions.
Jones’ campaign can be summed up as spearheads along three major fronts:
• A shift west — Moving thousands of troops back to the United States and closing dozens of installations in Germany and England, Jones hopes to consolidate forces on a few remaining “Main Operating Bases” in Western Europe.
• A shift east — Opening “Forward Operating Bases” in Eastern Europe, Jones wants to begin rotating forces from the remaining bases in Western Europe — and from the United States — into new spartan sites designed to maximize training opportunities while getting closer to potential hot spots.
• A shift south — Jones thinks Africa has been ignored for too long. As part of his plan, “Forward Operating Sites” will soon dot the continent, enabling U.S. forces to go after terrorist networks and drug runners.
To make it happen, Jones must fight those within the Army and Air Force who worry that his plan would stretch U.S. forces too thin, throw mud in the face of tried and true allies, and rely too heavily on concepts that have proved problematic in the past. Among the most worrisome for many is the emphasis on rotational forces.
Among detractors are rank-and-file troops who fear that Jones’ plans for rotational forces would leave wives and children behind and would strip away one of the biggest benefits of military life: a chance for troops to live and travel with their families overseas.
“Units in the Army have been run hard since the fall of the Iron Curtain,” recently retired Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who turned over command of U.S. Army Europe in December, told congressional leaders during testimony Feb. 26. “It is relatively easy to find field grade officers and senior NCOs (noncommissioned officers) with three to five tours in harm’s way. Child and spouses bore much of the strain of that pace. Many would see moving to a rotational structure and its obvious implications as a breach of faith.
“The impact on morale,” Meigs said, “would be devastating.”
Staff Sgt. Daniel Hubbard, a Germany-based soldier now deployed to Iraq, has been a soldier for 15 years, 12 of them in Germany. Hubbard met his German wife during an assignment and is taking advantage of the accompanied tour as long as possible so she can be close to her family before the couple retires in the United States in five years.
“I’d rather overseas rotations be accompanied tours,” the 34-year-old soldier said. “Quite a few people in my unit really like to travel and see everything.”
Despite the concerns, Jones is not stopping with U.S. forces. As NATO’s supreme allied commander, he says the alliance itself must transform and evolve.
“NATO is at the crossroads,” said Jones, explaining that the alliance “has shown the political will to expand, but the military capability that underpins the alliance still needs to change. This is really the start of an important period of time.”
For NATO and the U.S. forces in Europe, he said, that means getting smaller, spending money more wisely and looking in new directions to tackle new threats.
Over the next four days, Stars and Stripes will bring together Jones’ vision for the future of EUCOM, along with some of the debate over his plan. The series is based on interviews with Jones as well as with congressional and military leaders whom he has briefed. It also is based on public comments Jones has made and on interviews with his top deputies and aides.
What’s in a name?
Jones hints that even the name of his command may be due for an overhaul.
“The very title ‘U.S. European Command’ is now something of a misnomer and no longer representative of the vastness of our area of operations,” Jones writes in his 2003 Posture Statement, submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 3.
EUCOM covers an area more than 14 times the size of the continental United States. It stretches from Norway’s fjords in the Arctic Circle to the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of the African continent, across the Atlantic from Greenland to the mountainous “stans” of Central Asia, and along the entire breadth of Russia.
Within that basket are 93 countries, including two of the remaining six nations accused of being state sponsors of terrorism — Libya and Syria. Like Iraq, recently scratched from the list, two more — Iran and Sudan — border EUCOM’s area of responsibility.
Covering this area is a force of about 109,000 U.S. troops, only 8.4 percent of the active-duty ranks worldwide. The majority of those troops are stationed within EUCOM’s basing axis of England, Germany and Italy, but they are spread out over nearly 500 installations.
Jones has already announced his intention to cut about 20 percent of those facilities, and he has tasked local service chiefs to look for even deeper cuts as a way to save cash.
“Inadequate resources provided for the infrastructure, since 1989, have resulted in 19,090 of our 32,100 government quarters being defined as being ‘inadequate,’” Jones wrote in his posture statement. “Rather than invest significant sums of money into facilities, some of which may not be necessary to meet our future basing needs … we can seize the moment to apply new metrics of transformation to determine how best to spend, and where to spend, our resources.”
In the early 1990s, Jones served as one of the top operations officers in EUCOM under Army Gen. George Joulwan.
“We had been looking at how to reconfigure EUCOM since 1994,” Joulwan said.
Even as the last units from the massive Cold War drawdown were being cut from his rolls, Joulwan said, he found his remaining units stretched all over the map.
“We were up to our eyebrows in Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia and northern Iraq,” Joulwan told Stars and Stripes in an interview in May. “The question quickly became, ‘How do you structure yourself for that?’”
Since the collapse of the Cold War and the single-minded focus on protecting the Fulda Gap, EUCOM officials say U.S. forces in the region have found themselves embroiled in more than 75 major operations.
While many, such as evacuating Americans from Liberia in 1991, were short-fuse ops, others such as Balkans peacekeeping duties — which began in Macedonia in 1994 under Jones’ leadership — continue to this day.
“As those crises developed, we were always getting hung up on what bases and sites we could use to get there — our strategic reach,” Joulwan said.
Shifting forces and cutting installations out of Western Europe is nothing new to EUCOM.
In the 14 years since the Berlin Wall came down, two-thirds of the American troops in Europe have disappeared — plummeting from Cold War highs of more than 320,000 to about 100,000 troops. Meanwhile, two-thirds of all U.S. bases in Europe also have been cut.
Those forces still in Europe are dispersed over hundreds of remaining installations, stretched along the old fault lines with the Warsaw Pact. Reflecting old nuclear warfare worries of concentrating too many forces in one place — where one nuke could take out an entire division — the scattershot approach has left behind an expensive and inefficient infrastructure, Jones said.
Similar numbers of forces in the States can be found in just two or three bases. For example, the Army, which has 62,000 troops in Europe spread across more than 200 main bases and housing areas, can fit about the same number of soldiers within the confines of Fort Hood, Texas.
“The U.S. has been for the last 10 years involved in transformation — reduced forces, closed installations, gotten more agile — and what we’re trying to do is take that to the logical and necessary conclusion,” Jones told Stripes.
Jones declined to answer questions on how deep those cuts may go, but several top-level defense officials familiar with the planning say about 15,000 troops would likely be cut from EUCOM’s rosters.
Although only in draft form, among the proposed changes:
• The Army would relocate one of its two divisions’ headquarters in Germany back to the United States along with at least one of its four tank and mechanized infantry brigades.
Number of troops relocated to the States: about 10,000.
• The Air Force would likely shift some — or perhaps all — of its fighter units out of Europe.
Number of troops: 3,200 to 4,800.
• The Navy is considering moving its top headquarters in Europe out of London, while looking at new basing opportunities in the Black Sea.
Officials also are evaluating whether any changes are necessary for the location of Navy personnel in Europe. Currently, there are 13,500 uniformed Navy personnel in Europe and 1,400 Department of the Navy civilians.
“We are certainly looking at a range of things that we can do in relation to overall transformation of forces in Europe,” said Capt. Gordon Hume, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in London.
Hume and other Navy officials would not comment on what those reviews entail or when they would be complete. He said the latest reviews started a few months ago.
“A variety of reviews are ongoing, and until the reviews are completed and specific recommendations are approved, I’m not at liberty to discuss them,” said Lt. Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, spokeswoman for naval forces in Europe.
While officials see an opportunity to save millions of dollars by closing and consolidating old bases in Europe, Jones also sees an opportunity to find better training opportunities elsewhere.
Shrinking maneuver room and restrictive environmental rules at existing ranges have hamstrung training in Western Europe, he argues.
“We now face concerted efforts to limit essential military training at sea, in the air and on land,” Jones told congressional leaders during Senate testimony April 29. “It is a major problem.”
Developing combat-critical skills such as low-level night flying and maneuvering large-scale ground forces in realistic training scenarios have almost become a thing of the past in Europe, he said. Now, troops travel to Eastern Europe — or even Africa — for that training.
Jones blames city sprawl for much of the problem, in what he calls “the phenomenon of urbanization.”
“The cities move toward the bases and then they say, ‘Where’d that noise come from? Knock it off,’” Jones told Stripes. “Well, that doesn’t change the fact that we have to train. So, naturally, you look for other places.”
While Jones emphasizes that his plan is still in draft form, the basic underpinnings of troop cuts and restationing have already gotten a nod from top leaders.
“There is no question in my mind but that we have probably too large a number of folks in Western Europe,” Rumsfeld told soldiers during a tour last month of Baghdad, according to a Defense Department transcript. “What we are doing now is systematically working with our friends and allies around the world to examine our footprint, to see where we are, how we want to be arranged for the future.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he added, “that we will be making adjustments.”
With new bases expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, political support will be critical if Jones’ plan is to become reality. To that end, Jones has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill and has briefed several top-level congressional delegations during their visits to Europe.
House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert indicated to Stars and Stripes on an April 22 trip to Europe that he would endorse Jones’ plan and find the money to pay for it.
“There needs to be consolidation and modernization,” Hastert said after getting briefed at Jones’ headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “We’ll see some narrowing and deletion of some of the bases we have here in Germany. We have to be lighter and more flexible and more expeditionary.”
Preparing for another round of politically charged base closures in the United States, key Senate leaders are eager to see cuts made first in Europe, where there are no constituent concerns.
“The challenge is to ensure that expenditures are not wasted on facilities which may be abandoned in the future,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told Jones during testimony before her subcommittee on military construction on April 29, according to congressional transcripts.
Hutchison used the forum to announce that she would sponsor legislation to establish an “independent commission” to study overseas basing.
But even as supporters sound off, there is debate over much of Jones’ key strategies. Even among his top deputies, there is disagreement and less-than-enthusiastic public support.
Speaking at a reporter round-table discussion April 28, Jones said the Army was having “the most difficult time with this concept” when testifying before the Senate.
Part of that difficulty, said Command Sgt. Maj. David Lady — until recently U.S. Army Europe commander Gen. B.B. Bell’s senior enlisted adviser — is concern that relying too heavily on rotational forces and slashing accompanied tours that allow families to follow servicemembers to Europe could wreak havoc on retention rates.
“Europe is one of the last crown jewels for accompanied tours,” Lady said. “Soldiers re-enlist to stay in Europe with their families.”
Bell declined to comment on the developing proposal. His spokesman, Col. Carl Kropf, referred questions to Jones’ headquarters.
Retired Gen. David M. Maddox, who commanded a division, a corps and finally all of the Army forces in Europe, said, “We’re going to face some real challenges in retention if we turn Europe into a hardship tour.”
On one hand, Maddox said, rotational forces would allow families to stay in place more. “Spouses can keep their jobs, kids can stay in school. I agree with that,” he said. “But I don’t know what they’re going to think about their soldier packing up and leaving for their third or fourth six-month deployment in a row.”
And if the pace of operations continues as it has in recent years, Maddox said, family separations will only get worse under a system weighted toward rotational forces.
Gen. Gregory Martin, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, has an additional worry about rotational forces.
While he is an enthusiastic supporter of engaging more to the south and east, Martin is worried that too great a reliance on rotational forces — not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East and Asia — could stretch forces too thin.
“Whatever we do, we need to do the math and think it through for the long term,” Martin told Stars and Stripes in May.
That process, he said, “is going to be very emotional.”
In the end, Martin said, the debate boils down to finding a “balance between what the combatant commanders think they need and what the services have the resources to provide.”
Transforming EUCOM: Series index
Part 1: Mapping out the future of EUCOM
Part 2: The opportunities in Eastern Europe
Part 3: Zeroing in on the African continent
Part 4: Consolidate and back to the States
Smaller bases, new places
A lexicon of basing categories is being developed as Gen. James L. Jones puts together his plan to reshape the face of the U.S. European Command.
Jones sees groupings of expeditionary outposts designed to take on the “new world disorder,” which he and others have dubbed the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
The EUCOM commander told congressional leaders April 29 that the new bases should “be able to both contract and expand as required.”
A look at what the proposed bases would look like:
MOBs — Main Operating Base: Jones describes these as “strategically enduring” sites, where U.S. units already are located, such as Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.
In short, these are existing bases where it is unnecessary — and too expensive — to rebuild.
MOBs are also where troops would be assigned, complete with families in tow. While Jones is remaining tightlipped on which bases make the grade, he has said there are “very few” of them.
Examples: Ramstein Air Base and Grafenwöhr Training Area, both in Germany
FOBs — Forward Operating Base: Jones describes FOBs as “truly bare-bones facilities” that would be the home away from home for rotational forces. Under debate is whether some FOBs could also house families for the cadres of more permanent personnel or entire units.
Examples: Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo; Morón Air Base, Spain
FOLs — Forward Operating Location: If FOBs are bare bones, then FOLs would be skeletons. Generally for rotational units, FOLs would be used for “temporary periods of time to do a specific mission and then [the units] would leave,” Jones said. Africa likely would host several FOLs.
Examples: Liberville, Gabon; Dakar, Senegal
Pre-positioning Sites: It took weeks to get the Army’s heavy tank and mechanized forces out of Germany and into Iraq. Much of that time was spent hauling the gear by trains and barges to the ports where they were eventually shipped to the Middle East.
To speed things up, Jones wants to set up a series of cache sites — similar to the portside heavy metal storehouses that allowed U.S.-based units to pick up their gear as they arrived in the Middle East.
Example: Doha, Qatar
— Stars and Stripes