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Is It Time To Reduce U.S. Forces In Europe?

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Rep. Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

Rep. Mike Coffman (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Rep. Mike Coffman is making national news with his proposal that he will include in the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill. Coffman’s idea is to eliminate 4 full Army brigades from the U.S. military forces in Europe.

While Coffman’s idea is far from becoming a reality, just the fact that he has raised the idea, as a Republican with actual military experience, means that we are that much closer to having a real conversation about the future of the U.S. military.

In the past, even talking about reducing the role of the U.S. military anywhere that wasn’t a live war zone was essentially a non-starter.

As a party, Republicans have long held that the only change that should ever happen to the military is that it should be bigger, as if just being bigger would protect the United States from future threats.

As a party, Democrats have usually only gone after modest cuts in the military that weren’t tied to active wars, knowing that going for far larger cuts would put them at risk of being labeled weak on national security.

While the chances of it passing as proposed are low, just the fact that a Republican in Congress is proposing to cut twice as many brigades in Europe than as proposed by a Democratic president, is a big deal.

The signal that the conversation will get to the next level will be if any of Coffman’s fellow GOP members of Congress decide to publicly support his idea. Right now, that is a big if. But as the idea begins to make the rounds throughout the country, all Coffman will need is some positive polling on the concept in some competitive districts and the allies will come.

Among those that Coffman won’t be able to count on as allies will be traditional military supporters. Critics have already included former Defense Department officials that say we shouldn’t move any personnel in Europe because Russia is moving more of their forces to their Western borders.

However, today’s technology and the state of the world may help put that Cold War era argument to bed.

Gone are the days where countries line up forces of tanks and artillery on borders to stare each other down. Now, most of the fighting is either done by insurgent forces, or through targets bombed from the air.

Another advantage to Coffman’s idea is that he is proposing to scale down Army forces, which would leave Air Force bases essentially intact, and able to still quickly address issues in other countries.

With the amount of money that our country spends on defense each year, no cuts to personnel in any country will happen without a fight. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning so many years ago about the power and influence of the Military Industrial Complex proved to be all too correct. So even the most optimistic fans of Coffman’s proposal know that it will be a tough fight.

But just the idea that someone is bringing the subject up means that we are that much closer to doing what it takes evolve the U.S. Military for the 21st Century, and leave much of its 20th Century legacy concepts behind.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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