- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2020

The U.S. has too many permanent military bases overseas and should instead focus on rotating troops to hot spots as missions demand, the country’s top military officer said Thursday.

Maintaining the heavy U.S. military infrastructure in places such as Germany and South Korea — everything from American-style shopping centers to American-style high school campuses — is both expensive and potentially dangerous for the family of the service members, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

“We have a fair amount of noncombatants in Bahrain with the 5th Fleet,” Gen. Milley said during an online discussion hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute. “If we were ever to have a conflict with Iran, those non-combatants would be at risk.”

He advocated sending U.S. troops forward on temporary rotations as the “smart, strategic choice,” adding that it was time to take a hard look at U.S. overseas bases. Many of them were taken by victorious U.S. forces at the end of World War II, he said.

President Trump has made bringing back U.S. troops from overseas a central theme of his presidency. Mr. Trump has not concede the presidential race and is legally disputing the results.

Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden has promised to work more in collaboration with overseas allies such as the NATO members who have worried that further reducing the presence would only embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While the U.S. has significantly decreased its military footprint in Europe since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gen. Milley acknowledged there was “not a lot of enthusiasm” to carry out further base reductions.

“But I do think it’s necessary,” he said.

Gen. Milley also predicted military budgets in the near term would be flat or even slightly reduced.

“If you don’t have a strong economy, you’re not going to have a strong military,” he said. “We are going to have to ruthlessly prioritize what it is we’re putting money against.”

The Department of Defense says its modernization strategy includes developing and procuring high priority systems such as artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial systems and hypersonics.

“I am biased toward future modernization,” Gen. Milley said.

Speaking to a chiefly Navy-oriented audience, he acknowledged that the U.S. is a maritime nation and that its defense depends primarily on air power and sea power.

“That’s just a reality — and I would throw space in there as well,” Gen. Milley said.

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