Logistics: October 11, 2003

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For over half a century, the largest overseas concentration of American military force was in Germany. This is changing. There are still some 500 American bases and facilities in Germany (most of them quite small). Some 80 percent of the American troops still stationed in Europe are in Germany. This has been changing for over a decade. First came the end of the Cold War, and the withdrawal of over a third of the U.S. troops in Europe and the closure of nearly as many bases. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been heavily using new locations, like Graf Ignatievo airbase in Bulgaria, and other airbases and ports in the Persian Gulf. Diego Garcia has also become a major air base, even though it is a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The billion dollar Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is turning into a key location from which to monitor Islamic radical activity in the Balkans. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are eager to host American troops. And the United States is eager to leave bases in Germany. No so much because of the growing anti-American sentiment in Germany, but because the German bases are often in densely populated areas, where the are many restrictions on troops training. In East Europe, they have more space, fewer restrictions and a lot of enthusiasm for having American troops around. The reason for this; to insure that ancient invaders like Germany and Russia stay out, is widely admitted, but rarely said openly. It is also thought that the presence of U.S. soldiers will make it less likely that wars will break out with neighbors over ancient territorial claims. There are plenty of these in Eastern Europe. The cost of building the new bases farther east would be largely offset by cheaper operating costs. Some bases in Germany would always remain, particularly the military airbase at Ramstein. 

Many of the new bases are not, like in the past, home for lots of American troops. Today, it's more likely that equipment and weapons will be stationed overseas, often in ships, but usually in climate controlled warehouses. A small force of Americans supervise local civilians to maintain the equipment. American troops are flown in if there is a crises. Thus air bases are important, not large training areas or lots of housing for troops and dependents. Increasingly, the troops are kept at home. Partly, this is because more than half of them are married. But there's also the cost factor. Keeping troops overseas is expensive, and provides more targets for terrorists or political activists. For over half a century after World War II, hundreds of thousands of American troops stayed overseas. Now, finally, most of them are coming home. 


 


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