The head of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said his area of responsibility is ready to receive two additional guided missile destroyers to further deter Russian aggression, should Congress approve the move.
Speaking at a Feb. 25 posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, EUCOM Commander and NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Europe Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters shared that previously appropriated funds have allowed the command to “improve and mature” the infrastructure of Naval Station Rota in anticipation of additional ships.
“If you asked me to accept two more destroyers tomorrow, we actually possess the infrastructure at Rota to be able to house those two individual destroyers,” Wolters said. Four Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are currently stationed at Rota: the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), USS Porter (DDG-78), USS Carney (DDG-64) and USS Ross (DDG-71).
Two additional destroyers “would allow us the opportunity to continue to improve our ability to get indications and warnings in the potential battlespace, and also dramatically improve our ability to better [execute] command and control,” Wolters continued. EUCOM has seen a 50 percent increase in Russian maritime activity between mid-2018 to mid-2019, Wolters told committee members on Tuesday.
The infrastructure improvements at Rota were made possible through investments in the European Defense Initiative (EDI), which Wolters called “critical to our deterrent and posture successes” in his opening statement ahead of the hearing. The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request includes a sizable reduction in EDI funding – from about $6 billion enacted in FY ’20 to $4.5 billion requested for 2021.
Wolters told lawmakers that through EDI, EUCOM has successfully increased forward-stationed and rotational forces in the AOR, improve theater infrastructure and fund exercises, training and partner capacity-building efforts, such as Defender Europe 2020, which will take place this spring.