STUTTGART, Germany — The British army is speeding up its plans to withdraw forces from Germany, where about 20,000 soldiers are still stationed, according to the British Ministry of Defense.

The removal of forces from Germany, where British troops have been present since the end of World War II, will eventually save the British military around $360 million per-year, according to Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond. The move also will result in an economic boost for local economies at home as bases in the U.K. prepare for an influx of soldiers.

“By setting out our plans to bring troops back to the UK we are not only providing our Service personnel and their families with greater stability for their future but also generating a saving of around £240m a year in operational running costs,” Hammond said in a news release Tuesday.

The majority of troops will depart garrisons in northern Germany by the end of 2015 with the rest gone by the end of 2019. The decision to accelerate withdrawal — the initial plan was to depart Germany in 2020 — comes as the U.S. military also is shrinking its presence in the country.

In 2012, the Pentagon announced plans to reduce its troop presence in Europe from 80,000 to 69,000, with most of those cuts coming from the elimination of two Army brigades stationed in Germany: the now defunct 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of Baumholder and the soon-to-inactivate 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwöhr.

In the case of the U.K., the German-based units aren’t inactivating. Their return to home soil will result in more than $2.7 billion in investment in a new basing plan, which will include a host of upgrades such as new family housing and accommodation for single soldiers. The solders will be repositioned at bases spread out across the U.K.

“We are going to invest an additional £1.8 billion in our new basing plan, providing investment around the country, crucial jobs for local economies and the best possible accommodation for our soldiers and their families,” Hammond said.

The U.K. expects 70 percent of the soldiers stationed in Germany to be back home by the end of 2015 with the remaining 4,300 withdrawn by the end of 2019.

The current British units in Germany are the remnants of the Cold War-era British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), which once numbered more than 60,000 troops and was intended to counter a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. BAOR, which came into being as part of the Allied army of occupation in 1945, was disbanded in 1994.

Vandiver.john@stripes.comTwitter: @john_vandiver

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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