Army Leader Abroad Fears Unbalanced National Security

Army Leader Abroad Fears Unbalanced National Security

Emelie Rutherford

The head of the U.S. Army in Europe said he is concerned budget cuts will upset the United States’ balance among military, diplomatic, and economic power.

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, told reporters yesterday he’s seen European nations scale back on military spending and doesn’t want to see the United States follow them.

“When you take a look at national security, it’s a three-legged stool that concerns military power, diplomatic power, and economic power,” Hertling said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington. “And my biggest concern is we’re going to have an unbalanced stool, if you will, with one leg being more important than the other two.”

Thus, he said his greatest worry regarding issues Washington politicians are weighing is “that the economic crisis we’re in would cause too much of a reaction in one area, which would harm us in other areas.”

Hertling, who works with 51 European nations, said such an unbalanced approach would be akin “to some of the things our European allies are doing.”

“And they’re making mistakes by doing it,” he said.

Hertling joined other U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in criticizing most NATO nations for not heeding the organization’s goal for each country to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic production (GDP) on defense.

“That is a good goal, I think, for all of them,” he said.

Only five of the 28 NATO national meet that 2 percent goal. Hertling, though, said Estonia and Latvia are working toward reaching that level.

The general said that while some countries are improving their military capabilities, others, namely Germany and the United Kingdom, are “drastically” reducing the size of their forces.

“The threats that currently face Europe need, I believe, some adjustments in approach by the various militaries of Europe,” he said.

Hertling said the major threats he sees today in Europe are related to “trans-national terrorism, transit through the Shengen Zone (of Europe where passports are not required for cross-border travel), human trafficking, criminal networks, cyber, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and missile defense.”

The U.S. Army’s presence in Europe is receding, with one brigade combat team recently inactivated and another slated to be cut next year.

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