The European Reassurance Initiative has helped fund 46 operations and maintenance projects and 23 military construction projects across Europe in Fiscal 2015-2016, said Brig. Gen. Bradley Spacy, USAFE-AFAFRICA director of logistics, installations, and mission support. Many of these projects had been identified for several years, via talks with NATO allies, Spacy told Air Force Magazine during a recent visit to Germany, but ERI funds have accelerated the timeline “a number of years” on many of them. Some projects are near USAF operating bases in the United Kingdom and in Italy, but many more are at sites in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. These countries feature several locations where USAFE-AFAFRICA forces frequently deploy, Spacy noted, but do not have the infrastructure of a main operating base. In the Baltics, for example, many of the ERI projects are designed to improve airfield conditions for all-weather operations, by constructing or improving hangars and runways, and installing better barrier systems for aircraft, as well as building indoor storage space for equipment that would otherwise remain outdoors during the harsh winters. “Fuel is very difficult to move, the more we can store forward the better,” he added, noting in many locations permanent fuel storage facilities for allies also are a top priority.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.