The Army will close two more bases in Germany in 2015, the commander of U.S. Army Europe (USAEUR) said Thursday.
"We were at 213,000 in 1989," Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell said of the number of Army troops based in Europe, but the troop strength now was 32,000 and was projected to go to 30,000 by 2017.
"Times have changed," Campbell said of the evolving U.S. military commitment to Europe.
"But that doesn't mean Europe is not important. It's a great launching pad to get to different parts of the world," he said.
Campbell said an Army force of 32,000 could still accomplish the mission of shoring up NATO, providing for Europe's security and being ready to respond to contingencies, particularly in support of Army Gen. David Rodriguez as head of the Africa command.
One of Campbell's main tasks now was in supporting the 400 U.S. troops manning Patriot missile batteries in Turkey to defend the NATO ally against the threat of air attack from Syria.
USAEUR's 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, joined by the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery (3-2 ADA) based at Fort Sill, Okla., and the 32nd AAMDC from Fort Bliss, Tex., were scheduled to stay in Turkey at least through January, Campbell said.
During military exercises in Croatia last month, Campbell suggested that more joint efforts with NATO partners could alleviate the impact of the budget cuts.
"I have a vision that we can bring in more nations to the exercises we host and that they become more joint -- Army, Navy, Air Force from the different nations," Campbell said. "Then we will better be able to secure funds from the Joint Staff."
Last week, USAEUR closed the Staff Sgt. Charles L. Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany, which had served as the 7th Army headquarters since 1952. The garrison at Mannheim, Germany, which once housed 8,500 soldiers, has already been shuttered and Campbell said that bases in Schweinfurt and Bamberg, also in Germany, would close in 2015.
The closures will leave the Army with seven major bases in Europe -- one at Vicenza, Italy, one in Belgium and five in Germany at Weisbaden, Grafenwoehr, Kaiserslautern, Ansbach, and Stuttgart, Campbell said in a conference call with reporters from his new headquarters in Weisbaden.
At the height of the U.S. military presence in Europe in 1953, the U.S. had 450,000 troops from all the services in Europe operating at 1,200 sites.
An assistant to Campbell said the Army bases in Eastern Europe in Bulgaria and Romania will continue to be facilities funded by the U.S. Army for joint and multinational use.
UPDATE: An earlier version of the story stated that the removal of the two brigades was motivated by the sequestration cuts. The decision was in fact made in 2005. A previous version also stated that plans to permanently garrison U.S. troops in Bulgaria and Romania had been shelved. This was not in U.S. Army plans.