July 29 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper revealed plans for U.S. forces in Europe on Wednesday, prior to an announced troop withdrawal from Germany.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Esper announced the start of plans for repositioning U.S. forces in Europe, known as the European Command or EUCOM.
The plan includes five goals -- deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies, improvement of U.S. strategic flexibility and EUCOM operational flexibility and care of U.S. service members and their families.
He noted that 11,900 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Germany, leaving about 24,000, but about half of those removed will be placed in other NATO countries. The move, objected to by Republicans in Congress, was widely expected.
"One important initiative to advance the NDS [National Defense Strategy] has been to conduct a review of all the Combatant Commands to ensure a focus on NDS priorities," Esper said.
"This includes optimizing our force presence worldwide; directing our time, money, and manpower toward our highest priorities; implementing our Immediate Response Force, Contingency Response Force, and Dynamic Force Employment enhanced readiness concepts; and, moving toward greater use of rotational forces from the United States to enhance our strategic flexibility and operational unpredictability," Esper said.
Although President Donald Trump called for a troop reduction in June, Esper's address on Wednesday was a departure from assertions by the president that the troop withdrawal from Germany was a punishment for Germany's alleged failure to financially support NATO.
Esper noted that troops will be consolidated in Belgium and Italy, Stryker infantry units and one fighter plane squadron will be repositioned closer to the Black Sea and airmen based in Britain and scheduled to re-base in Germany will remain in Britain.
"There are, or may be, other opportunities as well, to move additional forces into Poland and the Baltics," Esper added.