Permanently stationing forces overseas gives the U. S. military a strategic advantage–but at a price. That price is paid not only in terms of budgetary cost but in terms of the personnel, units, and equipment needed to support forces stationed outside the United States. We will compare the U. S. forces stationed in Europe and East Asia against the monetary and personnel cost of keeping them there. Forward Based Versus Forward Deployed Forces The U. S. forces can be maintained overseas on either temporary or a permanent basis.
Units or personnel that are in a foreign country on a permanent basis are said to be forward based or forward stationed. In contrast, units and their associated personnel that are in a foreign country for a limited time, typically six months or a year, while taking part in exercises or operations are said to be forward deployed. (An example of such forces is those now deployed in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. ) Although the distinction may appear to be minimal, it has important consequences for military forces and personnel. Forward Based Units
Units that are permanently based outside the United States remain in place while individuals assigned to the units come and go. For example, the 2nd Infantry Division (2nd ID) has been stationed in South Korea since the 1950s, as a result of the Korean War armistice. While the division, with its headquarters and subordinate units, remain in place, some 13,000 Army soldiers rotate through it on one-year unaccompanied tours. The services are now allowing families to accompany service members to Korea for two Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER year tours. Korea has an 8% personnel turnover each month.
And, 20% of all Soldiers on assignment to Korea never show. In other locations, such as Germany, U. S. military personnel serve three year tours with units stationed there and can bring their families with them. With the help of allies, the United States has built up large infrastructures overseas to support forward stationed units, assigned personnel, and their families. Almost all overseas bases that permanently house large numbers of U. S. service members include all of the amenities of bases in the United States, such as commissaries, chapels, exercise facilities, and post offices.
In addition, in places where families may accompany service members, the Department of Defense (DoD) has established schools for military dependents. In Germany alone, DoD runs 70 schools for more than 30,000 children who are dependents of U. S. military personnel and DoD civilians. Another aspect of forward based units is that personnel serving with them are considered on permanent assignment instead of temporary duty and thus undergo a “permanent change of station” (PCS) when they move from an assignment in the United States to an assignment overseas.
In a PCS move, service members can take along their household goods (including automobiles) at the government’s (taxpayer’s) expense, regardless of whether they are accompanied by family members. The fact that personnel are assigned to, and move in and out of forward based units on an individual basis creates continual turnover in those units. With the three-year tours common in Germany, one-third of the individuals in a particular unit will turn over every Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER year and the entire population will turn over in three years.
Moreover, when individuals complete a tour with a forward-based unit, they are generally assigned to a different unit in the United States than the one they served in before going overseas. Forward Deployed Units Forward deployed forces, such as those now in Afghanistan or Kosovo, are overseas on a temporary basis only. The United States does not anticipate having forces stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan for the next 50 years, as it has done in Germany. Rather, it anticipates that once Afghanistan is secure, U. S.
troops will be withdrawn and not replaced. As a consequence, the United States has no plans to build elaborate bases to house U. S. forces in Afghanistan. Likewise, for the most part, military personnel are not assigned to duty in Afghanistan the same way they are to duty in South Korea or Germany. If a unit based in the United States, such as the 25th Infantry Division, is assigned to duty in Afghanistan for nine months to a year, all of the personnel associated with the division who are eligible will deploy to Afghanistan for the length of the tour.
Neither soldiers’ personal belongings (excluding some individual items) nor their families will accompany them. Furthermore, as much as possible, all of the individuals assigned to the unit will deploy and stay with it for the entire period and return to the home base together. Those deployed forces are often included in tallies of U. S. forces overseas, but in fact they are officially considered to be overseas on a temporary basis, even though some operations supported by rotational deployments have continued for years Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER.
U. S. Forces Based in Europe The United States has about 100,000 military personnel forward based in Europe. The bulk of them are stationed in Germany, where the United States has maintained forces since the end of World War II, originally as an occupation force and later as part of NATO’s defense during the Cold War. Although the size of U. S. forces in Europe declined by two thirds after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the need to maintain the current levels is being questioned by some defense analysts and Administration officials.
Army Forces The Army accounts for about 60 percent of active duty U. S. personnel stationed in Europe. Despite significant cuts in those personnel after the unification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Army continues to base two of its 10 divisions and one of its four corps in Europe. Thus, a significant portion of the Army’s combat power is stationed on that continent, primarily in Germany. Nevertheless, the Army’s combat units (divisions and brigades) account for less than half of the service’s active duty personnel in Europe.
The 1st Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division (mechanized) has only two of its three combat brigades and about 12,500 of its total 16,000 personnel based in Germany. The Army’s other combat unit in Europe–the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy–has about 1,000 personnel assigned to it. Thus, the Army’s permanent active-duty combat forces in Europe total about 26,000 people. Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER Another 27,000 or so active-duty personnel are assigned to what the Army calls combat-support (CS) units, such as artillery, and combat-service-support (CSS) units, such as transportation.
CS and CSS units provide various kinds of support to combat brigades and divisions. The other 7,000 or so active-duty Army personnel based in Europe are assigned to what could be termed administrative units, such as medical facilities, NATO headquarters in Brussels, and contracting agencies. In all, about 43 percent of Army forces in Europe are assigned to combat units, 45 percent to support units, and 12 percent to administrative duties. (The breakdown for Army forces in Germany is similar: 45 percent combat, 45 percent support, and 10 percent administrative.
) Army Bases The Army maintains an extensive network of bases in Europe, encompassing almost 300 installations. Like its personnel, the vast majority of the Army’s overseas infrastructure (255 installations) is in Germany. The largest and some of the most expensive Army bases in Europe are at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, Germany. Those two training facilities–which provide ranges and space where Army units can practice tactics and maneuvers–cover 52,000 acres and 40,000 acres, respectively, and have a combined replacement value of more than $1. 5 billion.
(6) The Army also maintains 33 barracks for unaccompanied soldiers and 36 “villages” for family housing in Germany, which have a replacement value of roughly $14 billion. Other Army installations in Germany include five hospitals, five hotels, 15 smaller training areas, nine airfields, four Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER depots, three golf courses, a Boy Scout camp, and a Girl Scout camp. That infrastructure is designed to enhance soldiers’ morale and, to some extent, replicate the facilities and conveniences that would be found around many Army bases in the United States.
Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps Forces and Bases The other three services have fewer forces stationed in Europe than the Army does. In addition, they have not concentrated their forces and bases on that continent in Germany to the extent that the Army has. The Air Force maintains the second largest presence in Europe after the Army, with 34,000 active-duty personnel and 201 installations in 12 countries. The largest contingent (15,000 active-duty personnel) is based in Germany, but the Air Force also has relatively large numbers of people in the United Kingdom (10,000) and Italy (4,000).
The service’s major combat units are distributed similarly, with Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy each hosting one fighter wing. The greatest numbers of Air Force installations in Europe are located in Germany. The base at Ramstein, Germany, is the main air hub for U. S. forces from all services flying to or from other parts of the world, including the United States and the Middle East. The Air Force also has strategically important installations in the United Kingdom and Greenland. The air bases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath in the United Kingdom were used extensively to support U.
S. operations against Libya and during Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. The Air Force’s facility in Thule, Greenland, includes radar Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER that is designed to provide early warning of an intercontinental ballistic missile attack and is expected to be part of the Bush Administration’s network of missile defenses. Thus, although the Air Force does not have as many installations in Europe as the Army does, several of its bases have played–and continue to play–major roles in supporting U.S. military operations.
The Navy and Marine Corps, because of the nature of their activities, have a far smaller onshore presence. Neither service bases any combat forces on shore in Europe, although the Navy has 10,000 support and administrative personnel there, nor the Marine Corps has 1,000. (7) In addition, the Navy maintains 15 installations in Europe, including two air stations (in Iceland and Italy). U. S. Forces Based in East Asia and the Pacific After Europe, the region with the largest permanent U.
S. military presence overseas is East Asia and the Pacific, where approximately 80,000 personnel are stationed (see Table 2-1). Virtually all of them are based in two countries: Japan, where all four services have a significant presence, and South Korea, where the Army and the Air Force have stationed combat forces. In addition, the Navy and Air Force maintain a small number of installations (and fewer than 1,000 permanent personnel) in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Since the Korean War, the Army has maintained a major presence in South Korea, where 28,000 Army personnel are now based. Their mission is to enforce the 1953 Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER cease-fire that ended hostilities under the auspices of the United Nations as well as to deter an attack by North Korea–or, should deterrence fail, help to repel an invasion or mount a counterattack to expel the invading force. Today, the 2nd ID is stationed in northern South Korea with two of its combat brigades, accounting for about 13,000 troops.
(The division’s third brigade is based at Fort Lewis, Washington. ) Of the other 15,000 Army personnel in South Korea, about 13,000 are assigned to combat-support and combat-service-support units that are part of the Eighth Army, which serves as the high-level command organization for the Army in South Korea. The remaining 2,000 Army personnel in that country are assigned to units that perform administrative tasks. The Army’s representation elsewhere in the region is limited to Japan, where about 2,000 personnel are stationed.
Those forces provide forward presence and support for regional contingencies and are also charged with helping to defend Japan if necessary. They include one special-forces battalion, some CS and CSS units, and several hundred soldiers assigned to administrative units. Army Bases The Army has a total of 95 installations in East Asia–80 in South Korea and the rest in Japan. The most expensive Army installation in the region is Yongsan Garrison, located in the center of Seoul. It is home to 7,000 military personnel assigned to the headquarters of U. S.
Forces Korea and other command organizations and has a replacement value of $1. 3 billion. The Army’s 15 installations in Japan, which support a Running Head: WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT THE PENTAGON CONSIDER much smaller force, include a housing area, three ammunition depots, and other logistics facilities, such as a port, a pier, and a fuel-handling facility. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps Forces and Bases Although both the Navy and the Air Force have installations in several East Asian countries, their bases and forces are concentrated in Japan (see Appendix A for more details).
On the basis of replacement value, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force installations in Japan represent 88 percent of the three services’ investment in the region. Air Force. The Air Force has 23,000 airmen stationed in East Asia and the Pacific, with more than half of them based in Japan. Half of the personnel in Japan are assigned to support and administrative units, although 7,000 are associated with the tactical fighter units stationed there. In contrast, the majority of the 10,000 Air Force personnel stationed in South Korea are combat forces, associated with the two fighter wings based in that country.
The Air Force maintains a total of 67 installations in Asia to support and house its forces. Japan hosts the majority of them (44) as well as several large or valuable installations, such as Kadena Air Base, the nearby Kadena Ammunition Storage Annex, and Misawa Air Base. Together, those three installations have a replacement value of $9 billion. Air Force installations in South Korea are not as extensive as those in Japan, but they include two large air bases: one at Kunsan on the western coast and one at Osan, less than 50 miles south of the North Korean border.
Those two bases have a combined replacement value of about $3 billion. Navy. Since World War II, the Navy has had a significant presence and interest in East Asia. The base at Yokosuka, Japan–home to the Seventh Fleet and the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk–is considered the Navy’s largest and most strategically important overseas installation in the world. Furthermore, the Kitty Hawk’s air wing, which is based in Japan when the carrier is in port, is the Navy’s only forward-stationed air wing. All told, the Navy has about 6,000 personnel based on shore in Japan.
To support its presence in Japan, the Navy maintains 12 installations, six of which are estimated to have a replacement value of more than $1 billion each. Its facilities at Yokosuka alone have a combined value of $5. 7 billion. The Navy also operates a base at Sasebo, which hosts an amphibious squadron, and a naval air facility at Atsugi. In all, the Navy’s installations in Japan have an estimated replacement value of approximately $9 billion. Naval forces and installations in South Korea are much less extensive.
Because the primary mission of U. S. Naval Forces Korea is to provide leadership and expertise in naval matters to area military commanders, there are no naval seagoing units permanently assigned to South Korea. Most of the Navy’s facilities in South Korea are colocated with those of the Army at the Yongsan Garrison. Marine Corps. The Marine Corps’s only division-sized unit stationed overseas–the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)–has been based on the Japanese island of Okinawa since 1971.
To support the 20,000 marines stationed in Japan, including the MEF’s 17,000 personnel, the Marine Corps maintains two large installations: Camp Butler, which covers 78,500 acres (or about one-quarter) of Okinawa, and Iwakuni Air Station on the island of Honshu. Those two installations represent a total U. S. investment of $6. 5 billion. Concerns About the Current Basing of U. S. Forces Overseas Asserting that the current basing structure is incapable of meeting future U. S. needs, the Administration accelerated an ongoing strategic review of that structure.
The goal of the review is to develop a plan for forward basing that will make U. S. forces more agile and better able to respond to an unpredictable and ever changing global geopolitical situation. Defense analysts outside the Administration have voiced similar criticisms of the military’s current basing structure. Below are some of the concerns that have been raised from both inside and outside the Administration about the forward basing of U. S. forces. Issues Common to Various Services Some concerns apply, to varying degrees, to all four services and their bases outside the United States.
Those concerns include frictions with host nations, the cost of maintaining forward bases, the ability of forces stationed overseas to respond to likely conflicts, and the enduring utility of U. S. installations overseas. Host Nation Conflicts. All of the services are subject to disputes with the governments of host nations and their citizens over land use and the proximity of U. S. forces to civilian population centers and activities. Conflicts about land use have arisen because U. S. bases that were originally in remote locations have become increasingly surrounded by suburban or urban development.
An example is the land occupied by the U. S. Yongsan Garrison in what is now downtown Seoul, land that local South Koreans envision using for other purposes. I was stationed in Tongduchon Korea in 1998 and again in 2008. Within that 10 year timeframe remote U. S. training areas were turned into greenhouses and cities. In various places around the world, U. S. training exercises conducted near sizable local populations have disrupted the lives of residents because of noise, destroyed private property, and resulted in the loss of life through accidents.
As U. S. military personnel come into closer proximity with spreading urban or suburban populations, such incidents could become more common and affect support for the continued presence of large U. S. forces on foreign soil. The Cost of Basing Forces Overseas Maintaining forward based forces entails a marginal cost, in part because installations overseas, particularly in Europe, are more expensive to operate and support than those in the United States.
Additional marginal costs include the family separation pay given to military personnel on unaccompanied tours and the cost of moving active duty service members, their goods, and sometimes their dependents to and from assignments overseas. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the total annual cost of basing 100,000 U. S. forces from all services in Europe rather than the United States was on the order of $1 billion to $2 billion in 1996.
The Ability of Forces Based Overseas to Respond to Likely Conflicts Administration officials have questioned whether U. S.forces that are stationed primarily in Germany and South Korea are positioned appropriately to respond to probable future conflicts. They argue that conflicts are much more likely to occur in Africa, Western Asia, or the Middle East than anywhere in Western Europe. Similarly, conflicts may occur in Asia at locations other than on the Korean Peninsula like the civil unrest that has occurred recently in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Although all of the services have personnel stationed in Germany and all but the Navy in South Korea, that concern is most relevant for the Army because of its concentration of forces in those countries. Most of the Administration’s public statements about altering the current basing of U. S. forces abroad appear to focus on Army units.
The Utility of the Current Overseas Basing Structure Although Administration officials have questioned the usefulness of some of the military’s existing overseas infrastructure, they have said that some bases have obvious enduring utility. For example, the Air Force’s Ramstein and Osan air bases serve as major hubs in Germany and South Korea, respectively.
Army and other personnel and some equipment pass through those facilities when they arrive from the United States or depart for other parts of the globe, such as the Middle East. Those large installations, in which the United States has invested heavily to expedite the movement of forces and equipment into and out of Europe and Asia, are of high strategic value, and the Administration has explicitly stated that it will retain them. The training areas at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, which provide facilities unavailable anywhere else in Europe, will also be retained.
Issues Specific to the Army As noted above, various characteristics set the Army apart in terms of forward basing: it has far more personnel stationed overseas than any other service, those forces are located in places that appear to be legacies of the Cold War, and Army units require the most time and expense to be transported to conflicts away from where they are based. For those reasons, many concerns about the present U. S. basing structure focus on that service. Army Forces in Europe.
The main concern expressed by Administration officials about the Army forces now based in Europe seems to be the amount of time they would need to respond to a conflict in the region. Although the two Army divisions stationed in Germany were well placed to defend NATO from Soviet attack, they cannot deploy quickly to conflicts outside Germany. For example, three months elapsed between the decision to move the 1st Armored Division from Germany to Iraq in March 2003 and its arrival in that theater. Military and Administration officials have indicated that the need for U. S. intervention.
is much more likely in Africa, Eastern Europe, or Western Asia than in Western Europe. Statements by U. S. commanders in Europe suggest that the Administration may be assessing how to speed the deployment of U. S. forces to places such as Nigeria, Uganda, Azerbaijan, and Djibouti. (Nigeria and Baku, Azerbaijan, are sources of oil; Uganda and Djibouti are potential staging bases for conducting operations in Africa to counter instability and terrorism) As was the case with Iraq, moving a division, or even part of one, from Germany to any of those locations would take a considerable amount of time.
The units in Germany are heavy divisions equipped with tanks and armored vehicles, so the most efficient way to transport their equipment is by sea. Moving one heavy brigade combat team from Germany to locations in Africa or the Caspian region would take between 20 days and a month, and transporting an entire division’s equipment would take another four days in all cases, only about five days faster than moving the same types of units from the United States. Those lengthy deployment times have raised questions about the utility of the Army forces now based in Germany.
Another issue concerning those forces is the cost of keeping them in Europe rather than at bases in the continental United States. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it costs about $1 billion more per year to maintain about 56,000 Army forces in Germany than if those troops were stationed in the United States–both because running bases and providing family housing and schools is more expensive in Germany than in the United States and because the Army must pay for overseas allowances and moves to and from assignments in Europe.
If those forces are not needed to respond to any likely future conflict in the immediate region, observers might ask, why should the United States spend $1 billion each year to keep them there? Army Forces in South Korea Concerns about the 28,000 Army forces stationed in South Korea differ from those associated with Army forces based in Europe. Very few defense analysts question the need to keep substantial U. S. forces based in South Korea to deter North Korea from invading or attacking its southern neighbor.
Instead, their concerns relate to four main issues: the condition and location of U. S. bases in South Korea, the instability in Army units that results partly from supporting large numbers of one year tours in South Korea, the quality of life of soldiers assigned to those tours, and whether Army units based in South Korea should be made more available to respond to conflicts elsewhere in the region. Problems with Bases in South Korea The condition and location of the Army’s installations in South Korea are less than desirable.
According to U. S.military officials in that country, many of the Army’s bases are obsolete, poorly maintained, and in disrepair, including some Quonset huts from the Korean War era that still house soldiers. Most lack the amenities found at other U. S. bases overseas, and soldiers assigned to them are authorized to receive hardship duty pay of $150 per month. In addition, Army bases in South Korea are relatively small, spread out, and vulnerable. Units of the 2nd ID are scattered among 17 installations located north of the capital, Seoul, and within 30 miles of the North Korean border.
That area is well within range of North Korean artillery placed along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that runs between the two countries. Should North Korea attack South Korea, U. S. forces at those bases would be vulnerable to barrages from large numbers of artillery tubes. Secretary of Defense Donald Gates has argued that removing U. S. soldiers from such an immediate threat would give them an advantage in surviving and responding to an attack. Another issue about U. S. bases in South Korea that has been raised recently concerns the large U. S.presence in the center of Seoul known as the Yongsan Garrison.
That 640 acre installation was on the outskirts of the city when it was built, but it is now in downtown Seoul, occupying valuable real estate and causing tensions with the local populace. Instability in Army Units The need to support forces stationed in South Korea causes turbulence in Army units based in the continental United States (CONUS). Because duty in South Korea is considered hazardous and bases there are poorly equipped, family members do not accompany 80 percent of the soldiers serving tours in South Korea.
Unaccompanied tours are limited to one year to minimize family separation, which means that almost the entire population of Army personnel in South Korea turns over every year. That turnover has a ripple effect on Army units based in CONUS, which must provide soldiers to replace those leaving South Korea and integrate new personnel. CBO estimates that, on average, war fighting units in CONUS experience turnover of 37 percent of their enlisted personnel every year, as soldiers leave for tours outside the continental United States, take administrative assignments in places such as the Pentagon, or leave the Army altogether.
Some Army officials have asserted that high turnover in Army units reduces their cohesion and war fighting capability. The need to replace virtually all of the enlisted personnel in South Korea each year contributes about 6 percentage points of the total 37 percent turnover in CONUS war fighting units, CBO estimates. Quality of Life in South Korea Maintaining Army forces in South Korea on unaccompanied tours adversely affects the quality of soldiers’ lives by contributing to family separation. An enlisted soldier spending 10 years in the Army could, on average, expect to spend a total of .
6 years on unaccompanied tours, according to CBO’s calculations. Although that is a small percentage overall, some specialties and junior enlisted personnel are more heavily represented in South Korea than in the Army as a whole, so their numbers could be much higher. Serving on unaccompanied tours has been shown to decrease the likelihood that a soldier will reenlist, which means that maintaining forces in South Korea under current basing arrangements may have an adverse effect on retention. Availability of Army Units in South Korea.
Because the Army forces based in South Korea are generally viewed as a deterrent to hostile behavior by North Korea, the 2nd ID and its two brigades have been considered unavailable to participate in any operations outside the Korean Peninsula. (By contrast, Army units based in Germany have been used in operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. ) The unavailability of the 2nd ID results partly because the division is based far from transportation hubs and partly because its units, which include many bulky and heavy vehicles, are not easy to deploy elsewhere.
Secretary Gates recently raised the possibility of realigning the Army’s forces in South Korea to make them more suitable for use in regional contingencies throughout Asia. He proposed making those forces more mobile by replacing their heavy armored vehicles with lighter and more modern vehicles and by moving them closer to transportation hubs south of Seoul. As we consider the world’s current economic state, what are we to do with such a large institution? 1. | Most of the roughly 15,000 soldiers assigned to units in South Korea other than the 2nd ID also rotate through their units on one-year unaccompanied tours.
However, approximately 10 percent of them are on accompanied tours, in which the Army pays to move soldiers’ families to South Korea and provides facilities for dependents while the soldiers are on assignment there. Those tours typically last for two or three years. | 2. | Not all of the soldiers assigned to a division would deploy with it. On average, 4 percent of Army personnel are ineligible to deploy overseas at any given time for various reasons, such as pregnancy, other health concerns, and family emergencies.
Additional soldiers–as many as 35 percent in peacetime–may be ineligible because of Army personnel policies designed to ensure soldiers’ quality of life. For a discussion of Army deployment rates in peacetime, see Bruce R. Orvis, Deployability in