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U.S. Military Overseas Basing: New Developments and Oversight Issues for Congress

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Publication Date: October 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33148

Topic: Military and defense (Military bases and buildings)


In August 16, 2004, President Bush announced a program of sweeping changes to the numbers and locations of military basing facilities at overseas locations, now known as the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy (IGPBS) or Global Posture Review, a component of ongoing force transformation efforts. Roughly 70,000 personnel would return from overseas locations from Europe and Asia to bases in the continental United States (CONUS). Other overseas forces would be redistributed within current host nations such as Germany and South Korea, and new bases would be established in nations of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Africa. In the Department of Defense's (DOD) view, these locations would be closer, and better able, to respond to potential trouble spots.

In August 2005, the congressionally mandated Commission on the Review of Overseas Military Facility Structure of the United States (also known as the "Overseas Basing Commission") formally reported its findings. It disagreed with the "timing and synchronization" of the DOD overseas re-basing initiative, and questioned whether a strategic vision agreed upon by all effected government agencies was guiding the re-basing. It also saw the initiative as potentially at odds with stresses on the force that the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan caused. The Commission questioned whether sufficient interagency coordination, such as State Department led basing rights negotiations, have occurred. It expressed doubts that the military had enough airlift and sealift to make the strategy work, and noted that DOD had likely underestimated the cost of all aspects associated with the moves (DOD budgeted $4 billion, the Commission estimated $20 billion). The Commission also expressed fear that the re-basing could harm military quality of life, which would in turn hamper recruiting and retention. DOD disagreed with much of the Commission's analysis. Meanwhile, advocacy groups have voiced concern about the DOD plan, arguing that it would harm long-standing alliance relationships. Other groups stated doubts about DOD planning to accommodate the thousands of troops who would be returning to the U.S. from overseas bases.

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission delivered its report recommending U.S. base closures to the President. The President has forwarded their recommendations unchanged to Congress. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a study that Congress mandates DOD to accomplish every four years to allocate missions and guide military procurement, is planned to complete in early 2006. Critics argue that the BRAC plan and the QDR should have been finalized before completing the overseas basing plan.

Recent international diplomatic and security developments could further influence debate on overseas basing. Host nations such as South Korea have begun to voice limits on the use of forces based in their country. Uzbekistan, one of the test cases for the new strategy, recently evicted U.S. forces from the base in that Central Asian nation. Some analysts argue this eviction was prompted from Russia and China, who have begun to express concern with U.S. expansion of influence in the region. This report will be updated as necessary.