Breedlove: Sequestration hurts readiness of forward-deployed troops

Air Force General Phillip Breedlove said on Wednesday that sequestration-related budget cuts are impacting the readiness of troops stationed overseas in Europe and Africa.

Breedlove is preparing to take command of U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Breedlove took command of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa on July 31 and said he is concerned about the lasting impacts the sequestration will have on troops in the area.

"(Reductions are) diminishing their training so much that their high-end combat capabilities will fall back to a basic mission capability," Breedlove said. "All of these things add up to our air forces here in Europe not being able to meet the mission the way they could have before. We still have hopes of recovering some of that training. I think it's absolutely critical that we do."

Breedlove said there have been many reductions of overseas troops with an approximate 85 percent cut in forces since the height of the Cold War. He said USAFE-AFAFRICA was already doing more with less, but the additional cuts could prevent forces from being available to respond to crises.

"Forward-deployed forces are absolutely critical," Breedlove said. "There is no substitute for them -- you don't get the responsiveness you need from stateside forces. Our forward-stationed forces establish those relationships -- those relationships equal the access we need so we can do the things we need to do in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa. Without that access, without that trust, we can't accomplish the mission."

Breedlove also commented on the difficult mission of protecting the European continent from ballistic missile attacks.

"We've reached our interim capability now, as we march toward [initial operational capacity] in our phased adaptive approach, and this ballistic missile defense of the European land mass is going to be a tough mission that we'll have to remain focused on," Breedlove said. "I think we're up to the task and it's off to a great start."

Breedlove is scheduled to take command of Eucom and SHAPE during a ceremony on Friday in Germany.