WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Armed Services Committee approved a bipartisan amendment seeking to constrain President Donald Trump’s ability to withdraw US troops from Germany. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment, offered by Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), would block funding to reduce the number of troops in Germany and Europe at large until several certifications are made, The Hill reported. It was approved in a bipartisan, 49-7 vote.
“At this time, we can’t afford to reduce our presence in Europe,” Gallego said, adding, “Russia is a major threat to our country and to the free world.”
President Trump last month announced that he planned to reduce the US troop presence in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000. Trump has cast the move as a response to Germany not meeting NATO’s goal of spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.
Trump on Monday approved the plan to fulfill that order after being briefed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on options, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.
“The proposal that was approved not only meets the president’s directive, it will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure allies, improve US strategic flexibility and US European Command’s operational flexibility, and take care of our service members and their families,” Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman announced in a statement.
The statement did not say when the troops are leaving or where they are going, but Trump has indicated some will go to Poland and some will return to the US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has also argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that forces are needed in the Indo-Pacific region.
Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Germany sparked a bipartisan backlash from the Deep State lawmakers who say the troops are necessary to act as a buttress against the fictitious Russian aggression, foster US relationships with its vassals, and coordinate US military invasions globally. Germany is home to the headquarters for US European and Africa commands.
“I fully agree that every NATO ally needs to meet their 2 percent commitment,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday.
“But I was very concerned by the proposals that floated from apparently a couple people in the White House that not only would we bring up a lot of troops out of Germany, but we would put troop caps on how many Americans could ever be in the country at any one particular time,” Thornberry continued.
“This proposal was not put together with the input or consideration of the Department of Defense,” he continued, adding that the amendment is the “right thing to do,” Thornberry added.
“This does not say you can’t move people out of Germany or Europe; it says you’ve got to study it and you got to consult with your allies and you got to figure out what the effects are going to be,” Thornberry said, adding, “Now I don’t think that’s too much to ask, especially since we’ve had some proposals that did not meet that criteria.”
Gallego and Bacon’s amendment would require the Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman to separately certify that reducing the number of American troops in Germany is in the country’s best interests and would not “significantly undermine” the US and allies’ security. They would also have to certify that NATO allies and other partners in Europe have been “appropriately consulted”.
Officials would also have to submit several reports to Congress, including an analysis of the effects of a drawdown on US and allies’ security and interoperability, an analysis on the effects on the ability “to deter” Russia, and a detailed plan for how a drawdown would be implemented.
The administration would also have to make identical certifications and submit reports if it wants to reduce the number of forces in Europe in general. The amendment would also block the Pentagon from divesting property in Europe unless it certifies that “no military requirement for future use of the infrastructure or real property is foreseeable”.
Despite garnering bipartisan support, the amendment was opposed by some of Trump’s supporters.
“It’s not as if our presence in Germany stopped Russia from marching into Crimea,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said, adding, “It’s deeply disappointing that when you have Republicans and Democrats around the country seeking to put our nation first, seeking less U.S. involvement, that there seems to be tremendous bipartisan belief on the committee that we ought to be engaged everywhere.”
Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also joined in opposition to the amendment.
“The reality is progressives have always been for the rational reduction of troops abroad,” Khanna said, adding, “What we need is a strengthening of our alliances, a clear sense to Russia through effective diplomacy that we are not going to stand for further aggression and interference in our elections, but that should not be a knee jerk reaction to not reduce troop levels.”