Roughly 11,900 U.S. troops would be moved to locations in other NATO countries and U.S. installations from Germany, under a reorganization plan Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper unveiled to the public July 29. The move would reduce U.S. presence in Germany to 24,000 personnel, down from the present 36,000.
Air Force magazine reported that the move effectively would end the service’s mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The impending transfer of 2,500 airmen now stationed at Mildenhall Air Base in the United Kingdom to Germany would no longer take place. Their missions – aerial refueling and special operations – would remain where they are now. A fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing would move to Italy, placing them closer to the Black Sea, where they can better protect NATO’s southeastern flank. U.S. forces likely could be headquartered in Belgium and Italy, where other NATO nations are based.
Elements of the Army’s V Corps would shift to its new headquarters in Poland, pending the signature of a defense-cooperation agreement between that country and the U.S.
Esper said that the change would help foster implementation of the National Defense Strategy that former Defense Secretary James Mattis first articulated in 2018. A primary goal is to strengthen NATO by placing military assets in locations better suited toward countering potential threats posed by Russia. Esper also stated that it would offer greater operational flexibility and provide greater security for service members and their families.
Implementation of the new plan will take place over time, Esper said, and likely would change as the process unfolds.