Commander: U.S. Army Europe Is Under-Resourced
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe
United States ground forces in Europe are short on resources amid concerns about a resurgent Russia, a top Army officer said.
“When I was a lieutenant we had 300,000 soldiers in Germany,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe. “Now we have 30,000 American soldiers in Europe and the mission is [still] to deter Russia and assure our allies. So the task is to make 30,000 look and feel like 300,000.”
Recent budget constraints and force structure cuts hit his command particularly hard, he said: “Two years ago, Russia was still our friend and the Army was having to get smaller, and so [military leaders thought] a great place to start taking cuts was in U.S. Army Europe.”
The command is dependent on other forces to deter Russia and conduct Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission to reassure NATO allies, Hodges said.
“We’re asking for more access to the Guard and Reserve,” he told reporters at an Association of the United States Army convention Oct. 14. “Our 30,000 soldiers — they are stretched very thin, and without [the] Guard and Reserve being there and without rotational forces, it’s an op tempo that we can’t sustain.”
U.S. Army Europe doesn’t have enough resources on hand to counter potential Russian moves against allies in Eastern Europe, he said, noting that his forces’ logistical capabilities are “paper thin.”
“If deterrence fails, then for sure we don’t have enough [troops and platforms],” Hodges said. “Our national strategic policy relies more and more on power projection from [the continental United States].”
The commander described a number of areas where force cuts or the prioritization of military efforts in other regions have limited the capabilities at his disposal.
U.S. forces in Europe need more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to track Russian forces, he said: “Most of the collection capability of the U.S. is focused on the Middle East and in Korea and in Africa. So we’re not able to see the things we need to see. There’s not enough capacity.”
U.S. Army Europe lost an aviation brigade to a force restructuring initiative, Hodges noted, lamenting the loss of Apaches, Chinooks and Black Hawks.
“They give you so much capability and there’s just not enough now,” he said.
Air defense is another of concern now that Russia has integrated unmanned aerial vehicles into their operations and acquired large numbers of them. There is only one Patriot missile battalion in Europe and there are no lower-end capabilities, he said.
“There is no short-range air defense anymore,” Hodges said. “So things that shoot down UAVs — I mean you go from Patriot to a M-4 rifle. There’s nothing in between.”
“I still don’t know all [of Russia’s] full capabilities yet, but it’s enough to make us think about how do we defeat UAVs [and] how do we protect ourselves from detection and the inevitable follow-on artillery and rocket fire,” he added.
Hodges deplored the reliance on overseas contingency operations funding to resource his command’s ongoing deterrence activities.
“It is outside the base [budget],” he said. “That means it’s year to year [and] you don’t know for a fact it’s going to be there” in the future. “My sense is that there is support to continue doing that, but I would be reluctant to say how far. To me there is a mismatch between … our strategic policy and how we’re funding this.”