WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate on Thursday advanced a measure to require the Pentagon assess the need for combat enablers, should a U.S Army brigade be permanently stationed in Poland.
The Senate added the language by voice vote to its version of the mammoth annual defense policy bill, due for a vote on Monday. It came as an amendment from Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman, R-Ark., who touted it as a means to deter Russian aggression.
“Combat enablers are the essential non-combat force that help to maintain our defense posture around the globe. They can help us prepare for the serious threats Russia poses to our allies and interests in Eastern Europe,” Boozman said. “The United States needs to turn the page and set a clear course to deter Russia over the long term.”
The language is a few steps from becoming law, as the $716 billion authorization bill must first pass the Senate and then be reconciled with the House-passed bill. However, provisions ordering studies are often deemed non-controversial.
Beyond the study, the bill expresses a “sense of the Senate” in favor of a broad, long-term strategy that includes helping European allies, “backed by all elements of United States’ national power to deter and, if necessary, defeat Russian aggression.”
The bill already orders a report on whether to forward-station a U.S. Army armored brigade combat team in Europe—which comes after Poland last month offered to host a division-sized unit. The Army relies on a rotational deployment of an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe in order to deter Russia.
The Commission on the Future of the Army — which was tasked in 2015 to examine the service’s structure and policies relating to its size and force mix between the active, Army National Guard and Army Reserve — determined in its 2016 report that the Army should forward station an armored brigade in Europe.
But the commission also acknowledged the political sensitivities of removing an armored brigade from a U.S. lawmaker’s district.
— Jen Judson contributed to this report.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.