Study: Basing Troops in Europe Saves Money

Washington Report

(July 5, 2017) Basing troops in Europe and South Korea is cheaper than rotating units in and out, according to a study from the U.S. Army War College.

The study, “Rotational Deployments vs. Forward Stationing,” which was reported on in Stars and Stripes, found that it costs $135 million more each year to keep an armored brigade on rotation compared with having one permanently based in Europe. Rotating a brigade to Europe costs $1.19 billion, compared to $1.05 billion to have that unit positioned in Germany.

John R. Deni, a War College professor and author of the report, identifies initial costs for permanent basing because much of the footprint of U.S. Army, Europe has shrunk as the post-Cold War drawdown has continued. But a newly aggressive Russia has some NATO allies in Europe nervous and the U.S. has pledged to support them.

Deni said moving a brigade to Poland would include $600 million in investment upfront. Poland, he pointed out, has expressed an interest in hosting U.S. troops. It would be more likely than Germany to pick up some of the costs of having them on their soil.

“Basing at least some of this in Poland would have a stronger impact on assurance and deterrence,” he told the newspaper.

However, in an effort to placate Russia, NATO has promised not to station troops in the old Warsaw Pact countries. USAREUR is not looking at Poland as it searches for possible locations.

Deni’s report identifies the German towns of Baumholder and Grafenwoehr as the cheapest places to put an armored brigade. The cost would be about $300 million to ready them for new tenants, an amount that would be paid off in less than three years.

Deni identifies Camp. Humphreys as a possible location for a brigade in South Korea.

The 116th Cavalry Brigade, which has headquarters in Idaho, spent three months in Romania last summer. They took all of their equipment with them on the deployment.

The report goes against the conventional wisdom that rotating units is the least-expensive option.

“We’ve got some actual hard data now,” Deni said. “There seems to be universal agreement that the rotational model has cost us more than it would to forward station an ABCT.”

Besides costs, Deni discovered that re-enlistment rates in three of four units that rotated to Europe between 2014 and 2016 were lower than those for other Army armored brigades. Deni said he makes no direct correlation, but said troops appear “dissatisfied” with the nine-month rotations.