WASHINGTON — Congress wants the Pentagon to produce a five-year plan for the European Deterrence Initiative fund, much like what is required each year when the Defense Department rolls out its base budget request.

In the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill’s conference report released Dec. 9, Congress gives the Pentagon a tight deadline to produce a future years plan for the EDI account for FY20 — no later than the end of the year — that covers “not fewer than the four succeeding fiscal years.”

Congress wants the defense secretary and the head of U.S. European Command to submit to congressional defense committees subsequent future five-year plans beginning in FY21 at the same time as budget requests are submitted.

The EDI account — initially called the European Reassurance Initiative — was created to help Eastern European allies deter Russia from further incursion into Europe following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and continued military activity in the region.

The U.S. Army’s presence at the time of the annexation had dwindled from roughly 200,000 troops in Europe in the 1980s to around 33,000 in 2015. The Army had only two permanently stationed brigade combat teams, had closed more than 100 sites since 2006, and was concentrated in Italy and Germany rather than along NATO’s eastern flank.

The plans should contain a description of the “intended force structure and posture” of the assigned forces in Europe for the last fiscal year as well as “the manner in which such force structure and posture support the implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” according to the bill’s report.

The plan should also detail infrastructure and military construction investments and the assessment of resources including cost estimates for each project needed to achieve requirements such as increased presence, exercises, training, enhanced pre-positioning of stocks and building partnership capacity, the bill noted.

The Pentagon should also include a timeline to achieve force posture and capabilities to include permanent posture requirements as well as a detailed account of what has changed from the previous year, according to the bill.

Additionally, the Defense Department is required to submit a report no later than the end of November 2020 and each year after summarizing in detail funds obligated for EDI for the past fiscal year, as well as a comparison of funds requested for the following fiscal year.

Under the bill, the Pentagon must also provide an interim briefing no later than the end of March 2021 and each year after covering the status of all matters to be included in the future years plans and reports on EDI.

Funding for EDI has continued to grow since its inception almost five years ago. In FY19, the Pentagon requested $6.5 billion, up from $4.8 billion in FY18 and $3.4 billion in FY17. Only in FY20 did the funding come down, when the Pentagon cut the account by 10 percent.

The Pentagon said the cut accounted for some one-time expenses such as military construction and a look toward increased burden-sharing from allies.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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