U.S. Reducing Number of Overseas Military Bases

Global Defense Posture Review key to military's transformation agenda

22 June 2006

By David McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Thousands of U.S. troops will be repositioned and several overseas bases will be closed over the next five years as part of the military's transformation agenda, defense officials told a congressional committee June 20.

"[W]e are reshaping our ability to support diplomacy and build stronger partnerships to contend with uncertainty," Ryan Henry, Defense Department under secretary for policy, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Henry, joined by Philip Grone, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment and Rear Admiral William Sullivan, vice director for strategic plans and policy, briefed committee members on the progress of a comprehensive evaluation of U.S. forces around the globe and how best to redeploy them to meet future security threats.

Henry said that the process, known as the Global Defense Posture Review, was the result of combatant commanders' extensive analysis of current and future security conditions. "[W]e seek to transform our defense relationships, our presence and footprint overseas to better deal with the post-9/11 strategic landscape," Grone said.

Changes in the global strategic picture, in addition to revolutions in military technology, transportation and logistics, mean that U.S. forces no longer need to maintain the numerous large bases and supply hubs across Western Europe and northeast Asia.

It is now possible for U.S. forces to do more with less, the officials said, by maintaining fewer, smaller military bases overseas, minimally staffed "forward operating sites," and "cooperative security locations," sites operated by allied countries that could be activated for use by deployed American forces should the need arise.

While approximately 70,000 troops currently stationed in and around Germany will be shifted to bases in the United States, Henry said they would be refitted to serve as rapid response units.

Gradually, the U.S. military is reducing its forces in Western Europe and shifting them toward Southern and Central Europe, leaving behind a lighter, more easily deployable force that can better support its NATO allies. Most U.S. bases in Europe eventually will be replaced by simpler, nonpermanent installations, said Sullivan.

"These posture changes, many of which are in motion already, will allow for a more rapid deployment to the Middle East, Africa and other potential hot spots," Henry said.

In Asia, troop-realignment changes will result in base relocations in Japan and South Korea, and expansion of facilities in Guam, Alaska and Hawaii. Forces in Seoul, South Korea, for example, will shift to smaller bases outside of the capital, while 8,000 Marines and their dependents will be transferred from Okinawa, Japan, to facilities in Guam by 2014.

The U.S. military also will continue efforts to help regional allies further strengthen their military capabilities, solidify relationships with newer partners who can help in the prosecution of the global war on terrorism and conduct regional humanitarian aid operations.

The Global Defense Posture Review, the officials said, also serves as a catalyst for two other key elements of the Defense Department's transformation agenda: base realignment and closure within the United States, and the Army's transformation from the massive, slow-moving divisions of yesteryear to a more agile, brigade-based modular force that can mobilize and deploy more rapidly into a combat zone.

As a result of these changes, said Grone, nearly one-third of the U.S. Army will be relocated from their current stations. He added that through the global repositioning and domestic base closures, the United States would shed more than $45 billion worth of facilities, located mostly overseas.