While the last two administrations have gone back and forth on proposed cuts to US force levels in Europe since 2004, the House took more decisive action on Friday with an amendment by Reps. Coffman and Polis to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. It states:
The President is authorized and requested to end the permanent basing of units of the United States Armed Forces in European member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and return the four Brigade Combat Teams currently stationed in Europe to the United States…It is the policy of the United States that the deployment of units of the United States Armed Forces on a rotational basis at military installations in European member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization pursuant to the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) process is a [sufficient] force-structure arrangement.
Still even this adjustment, if implemented, would be less decisive than it may appear. In addition to requesting and not requiring presidential action, the amendment says nothing specific about the approximately 55,000 service-members stationed in Europe but not part of an Army BCT, thus leaving open a wide range of possible force levels. Nonetheless, the change would be substantial, and it should have made for some interesting conversations at this past weekend’s NATO summit.