The House Armed Services Committee asked the Pentagon to estimate the cost of making what are now “rotational forces” in Europe permanent, chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry said Monday.
Over the last year, the U.S. has made multiple deployments of ground troops to Eastern Europe, where they have participated in military exercises and fulfill a support role in other NATO operations. Those soldiers are deployed on an over-lapping, rotating basis.
Rep. Thornberry said the Committee wants to see how the costs of rotational forces compare keeping units stationed in Europe long-term, with the aim of reassuring allies over concerns about Russia.
“I don’t know what the cost data will show,” Thornberry said. “I’m not convinced that it is tremendously cheaper to rotate a bunch of units through rather than have that permanent presence.”
In January, as part of a NATO build-up U.S. soldiers arrived in Poland and spread out into other Eastern European countries to participate in various exercises and operations. In the last year, the Army has planned or carried out at least 11 military exercises in Europe:
• Saber Strike, a long-standing U.S.-Europe cooperative training exercise meant to improve joint interoperability of the 13 participant nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.)
• Flexible Leader, an exercise conducted last year in Germany designed to train EURCOM staff to work with U.S. personnel in humanitarian assistance operations.
• Swift Response, an airborne crisis response exercise carried out last summer that focused on training the U.S. Global Response Force to conduct operations alongside allied airborne forces in Europe.
• Saber Guardian, an exercise planned for this summer in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria that will involve more than 25,000 service members from over 20 nations. It will be the largest of the exercises in the Black Sea region.
• Saber Junction, an exercise designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s Stryker-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment to conduct unified land operations, conducted April 25-May 19 of this year. It involved over 4,500 participants from 13 countries (Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine the United Kingdom and the United States).
• Anakonda, carried out last year and involved 31,000 service members from 24 nations.
• Rapid Trident, conducted last summer and involved 2,000 personnel from 14 countries.
• Allied Spirit, which took place March of this year in Southeastern Germany and involved approximately 2,770 participants from 12 nations, 1,520 of them American.
Add to that list Combined Endeavor, Combined Resolve, Cooperative Resolve, Immediate Response and Noble Partner and you’ve got a veritable flurry of military activity on the European continent.
The troop rotations began in November, when the Army announced it would begin sending armored brigade combat teams to Europe to join American bases and personnel that have been stationed on the continent since the end of the Second World War.
Despite the huge U.S. military presence in Europe, it apparently is not enough.
“There is a tremendous interest in Eastern Europe for a more permanent presence,” Rep. Thornberry said.
It remains to be seen whether or not U.S. troops will have an officially-admitted permanent deployment in Europe, but even if they did, it likely will not change much about the prevailing situation. The American military, as showed in part above, already maintains a de facto permanent presence on the continent and will continue to do so regardless of what the House Committee decides.
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Contributed by Will Porter of The Daily Sheeple.