As the U.S. Defense Department expands its presence in Europe, the Air Force has quietly ramped up investments that would enable it to deploy to allied bases in Eastern Europe and operate close to Russia’s western flank.
The Trump administration wants to spend $828 million in 2019 to build up military infrastructure in Europe as part of an ongoing initiative to deter Russian aggression and reinforce allies. Almost half of that construction funding would go toward U.S. Air Force projects.
The request would more than double military construction funding under the European Deterrence Initiative, or EDI, from the 2018 request — when not so long ago, the U.S. military was shrinking its Cold War-era footprint in Europe.
As the EDI request grew to $6.5 billion from $4.8 billion in 2018, military construction in the EDI request leaped from $338 million in 2018, while pre-positioning funds jumped from $2.2 billion to $3.2 billion.
Of that, the Air Force would spend $368.6 million to pre-position equipment and $363.8 million for military construction. While that’s roughly on par with what was spent in fiscal 2018, it’s a huge jump from FY17, when the Air Force got only $31.2 million in pre-positioning funds and $85.4 million for military construction.
To do this, the U.S. is placing pre-positioned Air Force basing assets in original NATO nations, like Germany and the United Kingdom, and making significant airfield improvements in Eastern Bloc countries and beyond.
To be clear, the U.S. is not looking at building up new major bases in former Soviet bloc countries, but it’s making improvements to existing infrastructure to ensure it supports U.S.-specific requirements.
“It makes it easier to reinforce [allies] in a crisis,” said Mark Cancian, a retired Marine Corps officer and senior international security adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The munitions, the taxiways and refueling points makes it much easier to move in there in an emergency.”