EUCOM needs funding to operate in changing security environment

WASHINGTON — U.S. European Command's ability to transform and achieve U.S. national security objectives depends on investment in critically important areas, the command's leader said March 8.

U.S. European Command maintains operational responsibility for Europe and most of Africa.

"Your support to our infrastructure programs over the next three years is critical," Marine Gen. James Jones said in a prepared statement to the House Armed Services Committee. "These investments will pay important dividends as we divest our many non-essential bases and consolidate forces into more efficient communities."

Part of EUCOM's transformation is the effort to consolidate the geographical footprint to enduring major operating bases. This includes Soldier support facilities at Vicenza, Italy, for the arrival of Soldiers and units being consolidated. The Fiscal 2007 budget request includes a request for $306 million to begin building these facilities, Jones said.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe is expected to meat the DoD-wide goal of eliminating substandard housing by 2007. U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe, however, are requesting a combined total of $255 million to upgrade family housing on their respective installations, Jones said, adding that money will not be spent on housing that is being divested through transformation.

Paramount in the effort to provide quality living accommodations, access to health care, including dental, and DoD school programs is adequate operations and maintenance funding, Jones said.

"The importance of these programs is magnified in an overseas environment where personnel and families cannot rely on off-base options as they do in the United States," he said.

The command's operational needs include non-lethal capabilities, and combined command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance.

He also said it's imperative that such investments include information sharing, electromagnetic spectrum access and assured information networks. Upgrades and continued investment in satellite communications and intelligence systems are also needed, he said.

Mobility also is an issue in a command as vast as EUCOM, he said. A 2005 exercise showed that strategic airlift platforms such as the C-17 cargo aircraft are best able to successfully deploy forces to austere locations in Africa. The command's small fleet of aging and smaller C-130 aircraft does not have the operational range or capacity to support rapid mobility and maneuver throughout the theater, he said.

Much reserve material and prepositioned equipment within the theater has been removed in support of ongoing operations and will not be reset in the near future, Jones said. While replenishing those stocks to pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom levels is necessary, EUCOM will temporarily rely heavily on U.S.-based stocks to respond to potential major contingency operations within the area of operations. This makes inter-theater strategic lift, including C-17 aircraft, a top priority for the future.

The aluminum-hulled catamaran High Speed Vessel Swift has also shown success in providing needed strategic lift.

"Its high speed, large capacity and shallow draft provide [the command] a viable alternative to intra-theater airlift for the operational movement and sustainment of combat forces [along coastal regions]," Jones said.

These theater investments will allow transformation to move forward, Jones said. Transforming EUCOM will provide greater crisis response capabilities, enhance joint training opportunities and more effectively position assets for future use in mission areas.

(Courtesy American Forces Information Service)

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