DOD requesting 3,000-5,000 more troops for Europe in FY17 budget
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s 2017 budget request includes funds to send 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops to Europe as part of a massive increase in its defense posture there, senior defense officials told Stars and Stripes on Monday.
The $3.4 billion request for the European Reassurance Initiative is about four times the amount of the department’s $780 million request in 2016. The Pentagon would add an additional brigade’s worth of troops to the U.S. footprint in Europe and would also send a brigade’s worth of tanks and artillery to storage sites throughout the continent.
This is on top of the tanks, trucks and artillery the DOD has moved into Europe over the last 12 months in response to Russia’s continued support of violent separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
The new troops, which are expected to rotate in from the U.S., will be dispatched to relieve some of the pressure from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is on its third rotation there.
“They’ve been constantly deployed,” a senior defense official told Stars and Stripes. “We are going to try to source that from units" based in the U.S.
The officials said that the funding increase is a show of force meant to signal U.S. commitment to its NATO partners. It is part of a larger refocus on the increasingly volatile security environment that will be outlined by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Tuesday morning at a speech in Washington.
“The security challenges have really given us a new focus,” another senior defense official said.
Carter is also expected to announce a large increase to the counterterrorism budget request, to fund an expanding fight against the Islamic State. Reuters, citing senior defense officials, reported that Carter will request more than $7 billion to fund operations against the Islamic State. Senior defense officials told Stars and Stripes that the fund will be used to meet other needs, such as replenishing thousands of bombs U.S. warplanes have dropped on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in August 2014.
As of Jan. 19, 2016, U.S. and coalition partners have conducted 9,782 airstrikes against the Islamic State. An airstrike, by the Pentagon definition, can mean more than one munition dropped.