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American Forces Press Service

Gates Considers Extending Brigades in Europe

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is leaning toward approving a proposal to temporarily hold two Army brigade combat teams in Europe rather than move them to the United States, a defense official said today.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. European Command, has proposed a short-term solution that would keep a greater force presence in Europe to accomplish theater security engagement missions.

“It’s not a request for an indefinite period,” Whitman said.

Four brigades are currently based in Europe: 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, in Grafenwoehr, Germany; 173rd Airborne Brigade, in Vicenza, Italy; 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, in Baumholder, Germany; and 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Craddock’s proposal would keep the two brigades due to rotate back to the United States in Germany for another year, Whitman said. This will enable Craddock to carry out EUCOM’s theater engagement mission of military-to-military contacts among European nations and the U.S. military, U.S. Army Europe officials speaking on background said.

EUCOM officials have expressed concern that a reduction to two brigade combat teams would cut manpower on the continent to a point that the organization could not meet currently scheduled theater cooperation exercises.

Keeping the two brigades in place “would enable the U.S. military to continue engaging with the new democracies and our established allies in Europe,” the official said.

Defense officials are looking at the proposal and working out issues that would be raised if the brigades remained in place. Among them are Base Realignment and Closure issues, building at stateside bases, and closing bases in Germany.

Unless Gates approves the extension, the brigades are due to rotate back to the United States in fiscal 2008 and 2009.

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