WASHINGTON ― The House Armed Services Committee delivered a near-unanimous bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump’s plans to pull about 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany.
During its markup of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday, the panel voted 49-7 to approve a measure that bars the administration from lowering troop levels below current levels. It was backed by HASC’s chairman, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., its top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry, of Texas, and other lawmakers who said the move was poorly planned and undermines the NATO alliance.
“Part of what our military does is build those alliances and makes sure we don’t have to actually use the military. All of those things should be thought about before we announce we’re going to yank 10,000 troops out of Germany,” Smith said. “By the way, the president has not yet been clear on what he’s doing.”
The amendment bans the administration from lowering troop levels below current levels until 180 days after Pentagon leaders present a plan to Congress and certify it will not harm U.S. or allied interests. There are currently about 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
Republicans who opposed the restrictions echoed Trump’s view that Germany was not pulling its weight in the NATO alliance, and they found common cause with progressive Democrats who favor a restrained use of the military.
“If we do reduce our troop presence, I think that we could count on our European partners to step up. I think that the way they become stronger is by having to become stronger,” said Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch ally of the president.
The amendment from Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., came a day after Trump approved Pentagon plans to redeploy 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, who briefed Trump Monday, said the plan would improve “strategic flexibility” and benefit troops and their families, according to a statement released by the Pentagon Tuesday evening.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators led by Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney have proposed an amendment to the Senate’s version of the NDAA that would freeze troop numbers in Germany.
Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said in an op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. those troops “may be reassigned to other countries in Europe.”
“Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia,” O’Brien said.
In addition, last week, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, told TVN24 in Poland that the U.S. will send another 1,000 troops to Poland — over and above the 1,000 declared last year. But she said they might not necessarily be transferred from Germany.
Howard Altman, of Military Times, contributed to this report.
Joe Gould is the Congress and industry reporter at Defense News, covering defense budget and policy matters on Capitol Hill as well as industry news.