WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Europe Commander Gen. Christopher Cavoli received his fourth star as the service plans to merge the command with U.S. Army Africa, the service’s secretary told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview.

“Gen. Cavoli was promoted yesterday to his fourth star,” Ryan McCarthy said. “I’m very excited for him and his family, he’s a very talented officer.”

Cavoli was nominated earlier this year for a promotion, and the Senate confirmed the advancement Sept. 30. He has served as U.S. Army Europe commander since January 2018.

The Army believes elevating U.S. Army Europe to a four-star command is “necessary,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we advocated and pushed hard and got that done because, in his capacity, as U.S. Army Europe commander he is the joint force land component commander, and in that capacity if war breaks out on the continent, this is the officer leading all of those NATO elements under that umbrella.”

The only other Army component command with a four-star billet is U.S. Army Pacific, which received that fourth star in 2013 when Gen. Vincent Brooks took over.

In conjunction with elevating the command to a four-star billet, the Army “is merging” Army Europe and Army Africa, something McCarthy said is “largely administrative."

“It’s a merger of two entities, so you look at where do you find synergies and where do you find redundancies, and you make those adjustments accordingly. It’s a tremendous responsibility for Gen. Cavoli, but he’s clearly up to it,” McCarthy added.

Army Europe is based in Wiesbaden, Germany, and Army Africa is based in Vincenza, Italy. McCarthy did not say whether that meant a consolidation of physical headquarters, but when asked if the physical headquarters in Germany would remain, he said he believed that would be the case.

It is also unclear what will happen with the leadership of U.S. Army Africa. Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling assumed command in July. He previously served as the U.S. Army Europe deputy commanding general.

“Restoring the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe to the rank of general, with four stars, is an important signal to our allies of American commitment and how important Europe is in our strategic thinking,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former U.S. Army Europe commander, told Defense News Oct. 8. “It is therefore also a clear signal to the Kremlin of our resolve."

“Fortunately, the Army has the right officer ... to assume that new rank,” Hodges added. “He is a strategic thinker, a decisive leader and a committed trans-Atlanticist who values our allies and partners.”

The consolidation comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s plan to move 12,000 troops out of Germany. Details are few and far between on what would move out and when.

Another push from the administration looks to consolidate U.S. European Command and Africa Command, but House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Oct. 7 at an American Security Project virtual event that he opposes the effort.

Both the Air Force and Navy have combined Europe and Africa component commands.