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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Senior Department of Defense Official February 16, 2012

Defense Department Media Background Briefing on U.S. Force Posture in Europe Going Forward, the Pentagon Press Briefing Room

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us today. This is a background briefing on European force posture going forward.

I have here with me (inaudible), our (inaudible). For purposes of this briefing, she is a senior defense official. She will have some opening comments, and then we'll go straight to questions.

And with that, I will step aside and let her start. Thanks (inaudible).

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: OK, great. Well, good afternoon, and thank you for joining us.

The new U.S. defense strategy reaffirms the lasting strategic importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership with NATO allies. Today, the Department of Defense will announce a series of changes to our force posture in Europe. However, our presence will remain robust and capable of performing the range of missions in support of the European Command and the Africa Command. This change in posture will not change our steadfast commitment to NATO Article 5.

Some of these changes have already been discussed by the secretary of defense, and I'd like to outline those here. First, the Army will inactivate two heavy brigades. The 170th Brigade, based in Baumholder, Germany, is currently redeploying from Afghanistan. It will inactivate in early fiscal year 2013. The 172nd Brigade, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, will inactivate in early fiscal year 2014.

The Army will also inactivate most of the force structure of the V Corps headquarters, based in Wiesbaden, Germany, in late fiscal year 2013. From 2013 to 2017, the Army will also inactivate approximately 2,500 authorizations from within enabler units currently based in Germany. The individual units have not yet been identified.

The Air Force will inactivate the A-10 Squadron at Spangdahlem, Germany, and the Air Control Squadron in Aviano, Italy, in fiscal year 2013.

Once these changes are complete, we may also need to conduct another round of installation and facility consolidation. The U.S. Army Europe is currently executing previously announced installation consolidations that will have us turning several garrisons over to the German government, to include Bamberg, Schweinfurt, Mannheim and Heidelberg.

With that, I'll be happy to take your questions.


Q: Just a quick technical question.


Q: What are the totals now, and what should the totals expect to be at the end of this?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The totals in Europe?

Q: Mmm hmm.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We'll be going from roughly 80,000 to roughly 70,000.

Q: Could you specify that for Germany?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The exact numbers for Germany -- I'm not sure the exact overall numbers for Germany. I can get that for you.

MODERATOR: Why don't we see if we can get that.

Q: Two small questions, and a bigger one if I could. You stated the V Corps headquarters is inactivated. Is the V Corps itself inactivated?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The V Corps headquarters.

Q: But will there be a V Corps that remains within the U.S. Army anywhere after this process?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think so. I'll have to ask my Army --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL II: The Army is undergoing right now a revision of the command of all their forces -- (off mic). In line with the new defense strategy, we're going to assess all the ones that we own and then make a decision afterwards.


Q: Okay, so the two brigades -- we understand that they're falling off the books. Fair enough. And the V Corps may also join them in the history books?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: V Corps headquarters.

Q: But there's -- but there's nothing more to the V Corps than the headquarters.


Q: It's just the headquarters.

MODERATOR: That's correct.

Q: Okay, fair enough. And the second question is you talked about the 173rd consolidating in Italy. Fair enough. What about the Stryker? Is it staying where it is, or it's moving?


Q: Okay, great. And the bigger question, if I could: How is this building and the U.S. government, and the Army in particular, working with the communities in Germany that will be affected?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, the families will be -- are being notified today, and the U.S. Army-Europe and EUCOM and the embassies are all -- have been in consultations with the governments and at the local level, and continue to work with them.

Q: About this brigade --


Q: I'm sorry. Did hear you correctly -- did you say Africa Command at the beginning?


Q: You did. Can you explain exactly how Africa Command would be affected?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, Africa Command is headquartered in Germany and --

Q: Stuttgart -- (inaudible).

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Stuttgart. Correct.

They often utilize a lot of the forces that are -- that are based there.

Q: Could you elaborate?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, it depends. I can't really elaborate, because it depends on current events. For instance, the Libya operation, a lot of the forces came from Europe in support of the NATO operation.

Q: So this consolidation and cutting of brigades will affect AFRICOM?

MODERATOR: You're wondering if this will have an impact on the AFRICOM mission.

Q: Right, right.



MODERATOR: -- no. I mean, I think the answer to that is --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No -- no -- (inaudible).

Q: No?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: -- or -- yeah, go ahead.

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I mean, the point -- our point is, is that, you know, we have a -- we have a global system for force allocation, so they could come from anywhere. But our presence in Europe supports both of those commands more than others because it's the primary location. So --

MODERATOR: No one should think the changes in the European force posture will impact the ability to -- AFRICOM's ability to conduct its mission.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, no, but that was the point I was trying to make.

Q: But it would affect the number of forces that are readily available in Europe for AFRICOM's use on an immediate basis?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Not on any (inaudible) --

Q: (Inaudible) -- for EUCOM -- it's -- there’s 10,000 less forces -- there will be 10,000 fewer forces in Europe that AFRICOM --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's correct.

Q: -- and EUCOM would be able to -- (inaudible) --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: (Inaudible). Or, in the quick way, if you think about, in the last 10 years -- right now, two of the four brigade combat teams are in Afghanistan. So they support CENTCOM as well in that respect. It's a global force.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, Mathieu.

Q: On the BCTs which are in activated are going to be replaced by a BCT (inaudible) sent battalion from a rotation basis in Europe, will they be sent in Germany or elsewhere in Europe?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, the details of that are being -- are being worked out right now. But the idea would be that as a -- as the secretary discussed, that one of the -- we would have forces in the -- stationed in the continental United States that would be allocated to the European theater to train with our allies. And so that discussion with NATO has to begin about what the best way to do that is.

But you know, our sort of premier training facility is in Germany -- Hohenfels -- Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels. So we would -- we can imagine that being a primary location.

Q: And that installation at Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr is going to remain --



Q: Just a little bit more on the rotational battalions that will go over there, and maybe the answer is we don't know yet. Are they -- they will be going to the training base, not to any of the other bases, for the most part? And how long is it envisioned that they stay? Is this a month long or six months or a week or --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Details to be determined -- very much so. We're in the beginning phases of working out exactly that. And it also -- you know, it has to be a multilateral discussion.

Q: On both parts to Julian's question, or -- they are going to the training -- to the training area, not the other two. That part of his question --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Not necessarily.

Q: Not necessarily. Okay.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, they'll rotate -- it's not been determined.

Q: And the other part --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There are some people working those details now, and a lot of it has to do with the way the Army is working out their details as well.

Q: And the other part of the European strategy that had been mentioned in the previous week was the contribution to the NATO response force. Do you have any more details on that about, you know, what those appointments look like, where they, you know -- where they go in Europe when you're a part of that, or what sorts of forces do that? Is it airborne or is it heavy or is it --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, not yet. Again, we're in the beginning phases of that, of that idea, and we'll have that conversation with the NATO, because it's the NATO Response Force.


Q: Are the 2,500 enablers primarily working with the 170th and the 172nd, or are they spaced around Europe?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They -- the 2,500 enablers have not yet been completely identified.

Q: Have any been --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The Army is still -- is still working on that. I mean, they have to, you know, take into consideration which units are coming out, which types of units, as well as, as we look to the future, what the -- what the future missions will require. So I think they're -- well, I know they're doing an analysis right now to determine that.

Q: You said from 80,000 to 70,000. When will that -- when will it be at 70,000?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Roughly by the end of -- well, it depends. I mean, the timelines go from the -- the first brigade starts to come out in the beginning of 2013. The second brigade comes out a year later, and that's sort of the big muscle movement. And then between 2013 and 2017, the 2,500 enablers that will be determined and start to come out. So probably that aim point there.

Q: (Inaudible).

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: And that's the Army. And the Air Force is on a similar time frame.

MODERATOR: Yes, sir.

Q: Has DOD talked to the Russians about those moves, either before or afterwards, or gotten any reaction from then on that issue, considering missile defense also is part of the European posture?

What is the conversation with the Russians right now vis-a-vis finding some common ground -- (inaudible)

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: This is the major announcement on this issue set, but there were consultations across the allies in the last couple months.

Q: About missile defense?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Allies and partners.

I'm not -- I don't have details of the conversations about missile defense.

Q: Did you just add partners and allies? Is that what you said? I didn't hear that.


Q: Because Russia is not actually an ally, right?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's right, Russia is not actually an ally. They're not in NATO.


Q: Could you give a little more detail or perhaps just run down the progression of the moves. I believe you just said summer 2013, but the fact sheet says summer 2012 for the 170th.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Right. Fiscal year -- the beginning of fiscal year 2013 begins October 1, 2012. So that's the aim point. So -- yeah, that's actually a nuance that I think is important for people to -- that don't understand fiscal year and calendar year -- to point out.

Q: Okay. And then the V Corps headquarters is deploying to Afghanistan, then returning to Weisbaden, then receiving -- the troops will receive other assignments and move on from there, is that correct?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't think the details exactly have been worked out on how the V Corps is going -- is going to make that rotation, but for all these forces, that's the general pace; that they will come back, be reassigned, or as they inactivate, the individual people will be reassigned, yeah. Is that what you meant? Is that what you were asking, about the individual people?

Q: Yes.


MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

Q: Do you have a little bit more on the consolidation of the bases in Europe?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: A little bit more like what?

Q: That, you know, which other bases might be consolidating, how many other bases there are?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I mean, just the ones I mentioned, that had already been announced, right?

Q: Heidelberg is one of them?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, the -- Heidelberg is, yeah, being consolidated. And then the other ones that are being turned over to the German government -- I mean, they're all being turned over, Bamberg, Schweinfurt, Mannheim and Heidelberg. Right.

Q: (Inaudible.)

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: And when we say "consolidation," certain of those units, like the USEAUR headquarters that lived in Heidelberg will be going to another place. And we can give you more of those fine-tuned details if you need them.

MODERATOR: Is your question, David, (inaudible) what the current number of U.S. military installations in Europe today ,and what will be the number at some point in the future?

Q: Yeah.

STAFF: Okay.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, we can give you that. We -- the definition of a U.S. military installation is -- there are lots of little places, and then there are the major bases, right? So we can get you that.


Q: The outlines of this were described with the rollout for the strategic guidance a few weeks ago. The senior leadership made a case that the -- that this building would be bound to Europe in some new ways. The rotation of a brigade is one, new deployments of Aegis cruisers to Rota, missile defense, of course. Are there other things that you're planning or can talk about that will expand relationships that weren't there before? In particular, will there be an increased SOF deployment to Europe, which has been discussed?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have any details on any increase in SOF. I mean, the -- a lot of those conversations -- but I think with respect to the strategic framework, the idea is to be looking to the future, right, and to say, you know, we've -- we're coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq; we've learned a lot operating together, and then thinking about the Libya operation as well, the idea that our NATO alliance is our most modern, you know, core -- it is a -- it is a key alliance -- and that if we want to look to the future and think about the types of conflicts that we're going to be fighting in the future and the fact that we want to fight in multilateral ways, not independently, usually, and that we should train the way we fight, then a lot of the things we're thinking about and talking about with the allies is how can we do that, and then what should be our U.S. contribution to encourage that and to do that.

And that's where the NRF idea comes in. That's where the rotational brigade comes in. Because the rotational brigade is not only just a contribution to this idea of training together, but it's also good for the Army, right, as General Odierno has said; because if you rotate, you then expose more of your Army people to the multilateral training environment over time, which is what they're most likely to find themselves in -- so instead of, you know, training by yourselves, and then having this pickup game when you end up going to some sort of a conflict. But that's sort of the way we're thinking about it.

And so, you know, as we do that, we could uncover new interoperability requirements, that then we may think about changing the complexion. I think that's kind of how people are thinking about -- well, I know that's how people are thinking about it.

Q: But just a clarification . The battalions that will be deployed in Europe for -- on a rotational basis, will all belong to the same brigade attached to Europe. So how can you say that there will be more Army people training with Europe while they all belong to the same brigade?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well I think that the first answer is that I think the Army is still determining how they're going to do this sort of regionally aligned brigades, and whether it would be just that one brigade or whether they would rotate, I think.

Q: Okay.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So that's still to be determined. But even if you did say it was just one brigade and that was going to be the -- you know, the one, Army people rotate around.

So you could have -- in your career, you could be in the 82nd, and then you could be in the 101st, and then you could be in -- and so the idea is that you would expose people over the course of their career to that, even if you did it that way, so --

Q: (Inaudible).


Q: I understand that, but it was already the case with brigades stationed in Europe, and people don't spend their whole career in the same brigades stationed in Europe before.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Right. Well, and the other piece of it is -- that's a good point too -- the other piece of it is the sort of art and science of deploying, as well, like going, and that's part of the training as well that they were talking about.

STAFF: Julian? Part three?

Q: Or four, depending on how you count.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

Q: Are you able to kind of articulate why the two heavy brigades were chosen for -- to be inactivated as opposed to the 173rd, or some reasons about what went into the decision about the force mix to inactivate the ones you inactivated?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, the short answer is that it is -- it was part of the Army's overall look at their overall force structure, right? And they chose -- choosing a number of brigades to take out of the force structure.

Another part of the calculation -- and I'm sure there is -- there is more, but another part of the calculation is, of the four brigades that were over there, they were still -- they still had not modernized two of those four. And so when you think about which ones should come out, you know, you would take out the ones that you -- not the ones you've already invested the modernization in, but the other two.

But that's -- those are just a couple of the pieces. There are more, I'm sure, parts of the overall Army analysis.

Q: But presumably, this is more the leaner, more agile force, is that right?


Q: Yeah, it's the Stryker (inaudible) airborne, as opposed to the armored, right?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Those are the strategic reasons -- but I just don't want to speak to how the Army did their analysis.

(Cross talk.)

Q: I was kind of going for a quote along those lines but I can't quote (inaudible) so --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah. I won't speak for how exactly the Army did their analysis, but from a strategic perspective, those are some of the reasons.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL II: To answer the first (inaudible) question, certainly, as you lead a NATO transformation, the remaining two BCTs, the Stryker brigade and the airborne brigade, are the cutting edge, if you will, of Army formations. So, certainly as we lead our NATO allies into a new form of maneuver, a new methodology, they are the ones we would typically use.

I think -- and it's part of the larger relook of Army force structure -- we're running some experimentation to see what is the actual mix of units we would want to have in the new defense strategy, in which case it'll eventually change, somehow.

And then lastly, as (inaudible) said, the two brigades that we are taking out were the two that had not yet been modernized. Therefore, we're avoiding the cost of transforming them.

MR. GEORGE LITTLE: Any other -- any other questions? All right.

Just one final point for me: You know, no one should equate lower numbers of U.S. troops permanently stationed in Europe with declining engagement with our European partners. We will continue to have robust engagement in Europe, and that will continue to be our core principle going forward.

Q: That's on the record?

MR. LITTLE: You can put that on the record.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think it's even in the defense strategy.

MODERATOR: Maybe it is. You can use that updated --

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: (Inaudible) -- I'll read that part.

MODERATOR: Yes. But the comments of my colleagues are "senior defense officials." All right.

Q: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

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