By John Vandiver
A military golf course, hotel and skeet range are among the 21 facilities that will be given up across Europe in connection with a Pentagon review aimed at shedding excess infrastructure on the Continent, the Pentagon announced Friday. Every major installation in Europe, however, survived the cuts.
The Defense Department emphasized that none of the closures will affect the size of the force in Europe, which now stands at just under 70,000 troops.
The cuts to unneeded facilities will allow U.S. European command to focus resources on higher-priority missions, Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary said Friday.
“It doesn’t at all change our military capability on the continent or degrade in any way our readiness to meet our security commitments there in Europe,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
For more than a year, the Defense Department has been conducting what has been characterized as a “BRAC-like” review of infrastructure in Europe. The review, dubbed the European Infrastructure Consolidation, resulted in widespread speculation among personnel at many bases in Europe that their installation could be on the chopping block.
Instead of cutting major installations, a series of non-operational sites, including outdated and excess family housing facilities, recreation sites and storage depots, were selected for closure.
In all, DOD said the moves will save $60 million annually. Facilities were affected across a wide swath of the EUCOM area of operation, stretching from Germany and Spain to Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Greece.
The department continues looking for unneeded infrastructure to shutter, Kirby said.
“It’s an ongoing process and it will continue,” he said. “This is sort of the first tranche of what I suspect will be other changes to come.”
The decision comes as security challenges in Europe have returned to the forefront.
Since the end of the Cold War, during which as many as 400,000 U.S. personnel were stationed on the Continent, the military has shuttered hundreds of facilities both big and small. In the year ahead, Army garrisons in Schweinfurt and Bamberg, Germany, also will close as part of earlier Army transformation decisions.
In recent years, some lawmakers have singled out Europe as a place to achieve more savings, describing the military presence there as a bloated Cold War relic amid calls for a major downsizing on the Continent.
Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the EUCOM mission appears to have taken on new significance as the West wrestles with how to manage a resurgent Russia.
Kirby said EUCOM’s forward presence serves as a tangible commitment to allies in Europe, underpinning the U.S.’s commitment to the collective defense of its European partners.
“U.S. dedication to our NATO security responsibilities is beyond doubt; ongoing infrastructure adjustments simply ensure that we are best-positioned to fulfill those responsibilities given changing circumstances,” the Pentagon stated in a news release.
DOD said the following sites are scheduled to be returned to their respective host nation:
U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria
- Garmisch golf course, Garmisch, Germany, no longer used.
- Breitenau skeet range, Garmisch, Germany, no longer used.
- General Abrams hotel and dispensary, Garmisch, Germany, no longer needed with Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch.
- Frechetsfeld radio site, Grafenwoehr, Germany, no longer required.
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden
- Wiesbaden recreation center, Wiesbaden, Germany, no longer required.
- Fintherlandstrasse family housing, Wiesbaden, Germany, no longer needed with off-post housing available and less expensive.
- Kastel housing area, Mainz-Kastel, Germany (in 2016), no longer required.
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz
- Closure of three American Forces Network (AFN) AM sites: Heidelberg AFN relay facility, Sambach AFN facility and Weisskirchen AFN transmitter facility.
- Hill 365 radio relay facility, alternate communications make this site unnecessary.
- Three Sembach water well sites: Enkenbach Water System Annex #1, Neukirchen Water System Annex #1, Niedermehlingerhof Water System Annex #1.
- The Giessen General Depot will no longer be required once the Army & Air Force Exchange Service distribution center relocates.
Spangdahlem Air Base
- Siegenburg Range, Bavaria, Germany, no longer in use nor needed.
U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza
- Tirrenia Recreation Site, no longer required.
Navy South Bagnoli-Naples
- Former NATO headquarters facility, no longer required due to consolidation.
NATO HQ Air Force South, Nisida Island-Naples
- Provided support services, no longer needed.
Port Customs Office, Catania-Sigonella
- Lease not renewed as part of facilities consolidation.
Karup Air Base
- Munitions storage and airfield facilities, no longer used or needed.
National Support Element Larissa
- Support services facility, no longer required due to consolidation.
- Ammunition storage annex, facilities are not in use and not required.
- 15 housing units (partial return), excess housing requirements.
U.S. Army Garrison Benelux
- Daumerie Caserne (in 2015), facilities consolidation. A small signal support element will move to a nearby location.