President Donald Trump has signed off on the Pentagon's plan to implement his controversial order to withdraw 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany -- an order that has rattled the NATO alliance and prompted moves in the Senate to block funding for the effort.
In a statement Tuesday, the Defense Department said that Trump approved the withdrawal proposals presented at a White House briefing by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
Critics of the withdrawal have labeled it a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the Pentagon statement said that reducing the number of U.S. troops in Germany to about 25,000 would be done in a way designed to strengthen NATO's ability to deter Russia.
Without giving details, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in the statement that "the proposal that was approved not only meets the President's directive, it will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure allies, improve U.S. strategic flexibility and U.S. European Command's operational flexibility."
In addition, DoD pledged to provide "timely updates to potentially affected personnel, their families and communities as planning progresses," Hoffman said.
Hoffman gave no initial indication of the cost of the withdrawal plan that is facing bipartisan pushback in the House and Senate.
This week, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, joined Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire in introducing an amendment to the 2021 defense policy act that would block funding for the move.
"In addition to undermining our NATO alliance, a withdrawal would present serious logistical challenges and prevent our military from performing routine military readiness exercises," Romney said. "We cannot abandon our commitment to our allies, and instead must strengthen our alliances in order to reign in the world's bad actors."
The amendment would require Defense Secretary Mark Esper to submit a report to Congress showing that moving troops out of Germany is in the national security interest of the U.S., doesn't undermine the security of European allies and won't negatively affect military families.
On the House side, 22 Republican lawmakers earlier this month sent a letter to Trump expressing their alarm over the plan. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and 21 other HASC Republicans signed the letter.
"We strongly believe that NATO allies, such as Germany, should do more to contribute to our joint defense efforts," it states. "At the same time, we also know that the forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer."
-- Gina Harkins contributed to this report.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at email@example.com.