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By John Vandiver
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
STUTTGART, Germany — As the Pentagon prepares once again to cut forces and facilities on the Continent, experts say decades of downsizing have already eliminated most of the Cold War-era fat, leaving planners with a dilemma: make minor tweaks that will offer only modest savings or carry out sweeping changes that will alter the face of the military’s presence in Europe.
There’s little room left for a middle-of-the-road approach that simultaneously offers substantial savings, protects core U.S. interests and pacifies critics who argue that the overseas presence is a bloated Cold War relic.
“In Europe, most of the low-hanging fruit in terms of base closures has already been achieved,” said Jim Thomas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who now serves as vice president at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “Further base closures are more likely to result in the loss of facilities that would be critical in contingencies in North Africa or the Middle East.”