More maritime power, including surface vessels and anti-submarine capability, are needed in Europe to counter threats there, the commander of U.S. European Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing in Washington, D.C., March 5.
“As you know … we’re looking at an evolving and modernizing Russian fleet,” Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti told the committee. “If we want to remain dominant in the maritime domain — in particular, the undersea, which we are today — we have got to continue to modernize and continue to build capacity.”
The specifics of what Scaparrotti needs in Europe would be revealed later in the day during a closed session with the committee, but he openly said he’d need two more naval destroyers and that Eucom would need to enhance its anti-submarine warfare capability as well.
Additionally, the general said he’d like to see rotations of naval components, including carrier strike groups and amphibious strike groups, “at a little better pace than I’ve seen in the three years I’ve been in command.”
It wasn’t just maritime forces that need bolstering in Europe to counter threats there or to enhance deterrence, Scaparrotti said. Ground forces also need to be strengthened, he told the Senate panel, and he’s looking for enhancements to critical mission support as well.
“Finally of concern is my intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity, given that increasing and growing threat of Russia,” he said. “I need more ISR.”
Moving military troops and equipment through Europe has been challenging, the general said, given varying rules and regulations related to the weight of and kinds of things that can move over the roads and rails of European nations. Adding to that is the incompatibility of the rail networks of western and eastern European countries, he said.
“It’s a serious issue,” Scaparrotti said. “We need to be able to move 360 in Europe, with our forces and the allies as well.”
The general said Congress has been helpful in remedying transportation issues in Europe through funding of the European Deterrence Initiative.
“Congress has supported, particularly through EDI, some of the key infrastructure improvements that we need, particularly in the east, to support our movements, reception of our troops, and support of the troops we put in place there,” Scaparrotti said. “But also it helps the allies. And the allies as well are financing along with many of those projects things that they should do with regard to airfields, fuel lines, rail, etc.”
A recent NATO study on logistics and infrastructure highlighted many of the interoperability challenges in Europe, Scaparrotti told lawmakers, and that has resulted in a commitment of about $7 billion by the European Union to invest in logistics and infrastructure over the next five or six years.
“We’ve got to follow up and make sure that investment goes to the right places and make a difference in military mobility,” he said.
The threats faced by the U.S. and allies in Europe are real, and growing, Scaparrotti told the panel.
“They are complex, transregional, all-domain, and multifunctional,” he said. “This remains one of the most dynamic periods in recent history, in my view. Russia has continued its reemergence as a strategic competitor, and remains the primary threat to a stable Euro-Atlantic security environment.”
While progress has been made in Europe, including adding new forces and capabilities, as well as improvements to readiness, Scaparrotti said more remains to be done.
“I would tell you … I’m not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe in support of the National Defense Strategy,” he said.