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USAFE already seeing cuts

Feb. 28, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Tech. Sgt. Phillip Black, 421st Air Base Group postmaster, show Chief Master Sgt. Scott Berge, 501st Combat Support Wing command chief, how to scan packages into the tracking system during a holiday visit to the post office Dec. 13 at RAF Menwith Hill.
Tech. Sgt. Phillip Black, 421st Air Base Group postmaster, show Chief Master Sgt. Scott Berge, 501st Combat Support Wing command chief, how to scan packages into the tracking system during a holiday visit to the post office Dec. 13 at RAF Menwith Hill. (Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart/Air Force)
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U.S. Air Forces Europe has seven main operating bases and 114 other locations. The main operating bases are:
Royal Air Force bases Lakenheath and Mildenhall, England.
Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases, Germany.
Lajes Field, Azores.
Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Source: Air Force

The Pentagon is looking to close or reduce the sizes of its military bases across Europe, raising speculation that Air Force facilities might be on the chopping block.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during the fiscal 2015 budget preview Feb. 24 that the Defense Department has reduced its European infrastructure by 30 percent since 2000, with additional recommended cuts on the way pending the European Infrastructure Consolidation Review this spring.

Following the budget preview, U.S. European Command officials announced their decision to reduce personnel at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill Station, United Kingdom, by October 2016. Approximately 500 U.S. military and civilian positions will be eliminated as the 421st Air Base Group and other U.S. military units deactivate. The base currently employs about 2,200 U.K. and U.S. military and civilian personnel.

Any further announcements on the closure or consolidation of USAFE bases will be made after the European Infrastructure Consolidation Review is approved, said Maj. Gerardo Gonzalez, spokesman for USAFE and Air Forces Africa.

“We are not aware of any other significant personnel reductions for the Air Force in Europe that aren’t part of the EIC process,” Gonzalez said in a Feb. 27 email to Air Force Times.

U.S. forces need to continue a boots-on-the-ground mission and further U.S.-European partnerships, Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, told Foreign Policy last month.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has trimmed 75 percent of its personnel in Europe, Breedlove said. The amount of infrastructure has been reduced by 80 percent.

In 2010, about 25,000 active-duty members were assigned to USAFE.

Downsizing forces has met its threshold, but infrastructure could still be “skinnied down,” if done properly, retired Gen. Roger Brady, who led U.S. Air Forces Europe between 2008 and 2010, said in a Feb. 25 interview with Air Force Times.

“There are places that are essential,” Brady said. “Being on the continent of Europe, it maintains access to other overseas bases; for example, no matter where we go to fight, we tend to go through Ramstein [Air Base, Germany],” he said.

In terms of cutting back or letting go, “Moron [Air Base, Spain] is one base that has been talked about,” he said. The base, which has about 800 military and civilian personnel, is a forward operating base for Air Mobility Command and Air Force Office of Special Investigation units.

Even if forces move around due to base consolidation or closure, training with the Europeans cannot dwindle, Brady said.

“I think it’s a mistake to have the pendulum to go all the way over and say, ‘Gee, we don’t really have those kinds of interests in Europe like we once did,’ ” Brady said. “Given what we’ve seen in the last 20 years, we’ve fought three air wars, let’s not forget that.”

The air war over Serbia during the Kosovo conflict in 1999 is one example of where the Europeans could have been stronger in precision munitions.

“If you train with them, they tend to be more likely to keep up with you,” Brady said. “You’re less likely to have gaps in capability. When we train with them, we’re better and they’re better.”

Brady fears there will be a lot of political discussion on USAFE basingand a decision “without a lot of strategy behind it.”

“USAFE has no ties to congressional districts, so it’s fair game,” he said. “Congressmen will look longingly at bases overseas if they think their bases here at home are being threatened.”

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