U.S. to up investments in European defence

with Nathan Gain

As the United States moves towards adopting a record $692bn (€587bn) defence budget, it’s interesting to note that a bigger share will be devoted to strengthening U.S. military presence in Europe. According to the draft budget approved by the House of Representatives on 14 November, Washington should allocate $4.8bn (€4.07bn) to the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), an increase of $1.4bn (€1.2bn) on 2017.

Two M1 Abrams tanks of the 3rd Armored Brigade of the US Army deployed in Romania for the excercise Getica Saber 17 (Photo credit: USEUCOM / RICK DOCKSAI)


Announced by former President Barrack Obama in June 2014, ERI, also sometimes referred to as the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), was launched in 2015 with an initial budget of $985m (€836.3m) for a period of one year. The purpose of this emergency measure at the time was to reassure European allies of Washington’s investment in their security and territorial integrity following Russia’s invasion of Crimea. According to the budget document adopted on Tuesday, the United States must “develop and submit strategies, plans, or reports aimed at countering Russian threats and military capabilities” which will require enhancing “U.S. presence in [Europe]” increasing “U.S. military personnel presence in Europe and (….) prepositioned stocks of U.S. military equipment in the region.

Through EDI, Washington is investing in five lines of effort: troop presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, prepositioned equipment and partnership building. EDI funds are used, for example, to finance Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR), whose many exercises rely on a supply chain which is currently causing NATO some concern (see our article here).

But, as often in big money stories, there is a catch. EDI funds are normally allocated for one year at a time, whilst the U.S. Defence Department (DoD) has a 5-year financial planning cycle. This could have a significant impact on the short-term strategy of U.S. and European allies, reveals a report (DoDIG-2017-111) by the Department of Defence Inspector General (DoDIG) published on 22 August. Because as a result of this lack of synchronisation between the planning cycles, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and OAR could be “unable to sustain ERI’s contribution to allied and partner military capabilities,” the report warns.

The DoDIG therefore suggest that a new budget cycle should be adopted together with specific tools to assess the impact of ERI financing. “Without assessment of ERI results, it is difficult for the DoD to measure OAR-country progress and to justify to Congress the need for additional resources required to advance the five ERI lines of effort,” the report says. The DoDIG”s recommendations that USEUCOM should “request an ERI funding authorisation that supports multiyear infrastructure construction and improvements,” was agreed to by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director, Joint Staff and the Deputy Command, U.S. European Command. These new measures will make it possible to rationalise the infrastructure mission, which, in order to be implemented, needs long-term budgetary visibility. Because if all the roads of ERI lead East, the reconstruction of the “eastern rampart” will not be completed in a day …

For once, half of this budget managed by USEUCOM, i.e. $2.2bn (€1.87bn, +29%) will be devoted to the maintenance and expansion of equipment currently prepositioned in Europe. This is enough to stop bases from closing (more than 100 have done so since 2006) and sustain the gradual rise in numbers of U.S. military personnel in Europe. The next biggest chunk will go towards financing the staff rotations: $1.73bn (€1.47bn, +64%); follows: the maintenance and construction of infrastructure: $337.8M (€286.8m, +55%); training, $218m (€186m, +33%); and the formation of partnerships, $267.3m (€226.9 m, +210%). The package also includes $150m (€127.3 m) to train and equip the Ukrainian armed forces so that they can continue to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country.

If these financial considerations seem a bit complex, the basic message from the Pentagon is that the U.S. military presence in Europe is growing. From a temporary emergency structure, ERI, or EDI, is continuing its transformation into a robust and sustainable commitment: a reassuring prospect given the difficulties that Europeans seem to be having in setting up a 100% Defence European.