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US to Restructure Overseas Troop Deployment - 2004-08-16

President Bush says tens-of-thousands of U.S. troops based in Western Europe and Asia will be pulled out and sent to other bases, primarily on American soil. The White House says the move is part of the most comprehensive military reconfiguration in about 50 years.

President Bush says the military is changing and faces new challenges.

He says during the next decade, a more agile and flexible force will be deployed. He says that force will be based largely in the United States.

"Although we will still have a significant presence overseas, under the plan I am announcing today, over the next 10 years, we will bring home about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel," announced Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush says about 100,000 civilian support staff and military family members will also be returning to the United States.

"See, our service members will have more time on the home front, and more predictability and fewer moves over a career," he said.

The announcement was made during a speech in a key electoral state to one of the largest veterans groups in the country. Mr. Bush told the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, that it is no longer necessary to keep large numbers of American troops in areas where the wars of the last century were fought.

"The world has changed a great deal, and our posture must change with it - for the sake of our military families, for the sake of our taxpayers, and so we can be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace," said Mr. Bush.

The president mentioned no countries by name, although there have been strong signs the administration wants to reduce U.S. troop levels in Germany and South Korea. Officials have also indicated that while many of the military men and women affected will be sent to bases back home, there will be new deployments in Eastern Europe.

The plan is the result of an extensive review of the nation's defense posture that was launched shortly after President Bush took office. White House aides insist it is not designed to provide more troops for military operations in Iraq. But the president left no doubt the new realities of the war on terror had an impact on decision-makers.

"The new plan will help us fight and win these wars of the 21st century. It will strengthen our alliances around the world, while we build new partnerships to preserve the peace," he said.

Candidates for president traditionally make an election year pilgrimage to the annual VFW convention. And while the president used the occasion to make the military redeployment announcement, most of his speech was similar to those he has made elsewhere during the campaign.

Advisers to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry were quick to criticize the president's plan. Senator Kerry will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday.