There are not enough U.S. soldiers in Europe, where concerns over Russia have shown the U.S. Army to be too thinly spread after years of cuts, a top American general said Tuesday. The U.S. military has been caught in the crossfire of a dispute between the White House and Congress over how the 2016 defense budget will be funded, leaving all three groups uncertain about future funding.
“We have a force that is shaped for a different reality than we have today,” said Army Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, during a reporter roundtable in Washington, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday. “We are stretched thin and we do face some significant challenges.”
America’s top commanders are in the nation's capital this week at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army. Chief topics being discussed include questions over cuts, which are set to see the U.S. military shrink by around 20 percent, to 450,000 troops by 2018.
The Pentagon has no plans to return troops to Europe permanently and will instead rely on rotational forces that will be augmented by Army Reserves and National Guard. The current European force of 28,000 is the smallest it’s been since the Cold War began at the end of World War II. Plans to reduce troop numbers in Europe were drawn up before Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and became involved in the eastern Ukraine war.
Concerns over the U.S. Army in Europe come just one day after U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh claimed that impending cuts meant that the "nation is at risk and, ultimately, the world is at risk,” he said.
McHugh also noted that forced sequestration against the military was hindering its ability to operate effectively. Current estimates by McHugh suggest the Army was only 30 percent effective compared with the 60 percent that is preferred.
"My greatest fear is what comes next, what don't we see that's heading toward us at this moment. What don't we see that will face us and our allies?" McHugh asked, Defense News reported. "Will we be agile and ready enough?"