Cablegate: Rheinland-Pfalz Lobbies for U.S. Troops to Stay

Published: Wed 25 Feb 2004 09:26 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Rheinland-Pfalz Lobbies for U.S. Troops to Stay
REF: A) 03 STATE 327580, B) Frankfurt-EUR/AGS email 19Feb04
1. (SBU) Concerned over the USG Global Posture Review (ref
A), the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (R-P) is fighting hard to
hang on to the approximately 24,000 active-duty U.S.
soldiers stationed within the state. Home to US Air Force
Europe (USAFE) headquarters at Ramstein Airbase as well as
the airbase at Spangdahlem and Army bases at Baumholder and
Pirmasens, the U.S. military is one of Rheinland-Pfalz's
largest employers. Despite assurances that the upcoming
decision will be based on strategic considerations, R-P
leaders are looking for "carrots" to convince the USG to
retain a sizable presence in SW Germany. Press coverage
and speculation on possible outcomes continue to raise
anxiety levels. END SUMMARY.
R-P Takes Advantage of Congressional Staff Visit
to Make Case For Basing
--------------------------------------------- ----
2. (SBU) In reaction to the President's November
announcement that the USG will review stationing of forces
worldwide (ref A), Rheinland-Pfalz has initiated a lobbying
campaign with the goal of maintaining current troop
strength. The state sent a delegation to Washington in
late 2003, held extensive meetings with USAFE and USAREUR
(US Army Europe, in Heidelberg) and recently sponsored the
visit of a group of congressional staffers to discuss the
future of the U.S. military in Germany (organized by a
German-American NGO, the Hanseatic Institute). During the
three-day program, staffers met with state and local
officials and toured U.S. bases and the city of
Kaiserslautern (home to the largest overseas American
military community in the world) before traveling to
Bamberg and Berlin, where they met with representatives of
the MFA, MOD and Chancellery.
3. (SBU) In their briefing to Congressional staffers
(attended by Pol/Econ rep), R-P Interior Ministry officials
previewed an "incentives package" they will soon submit to
the USG. The package highlights the state's receptive
attitude towards the U.S. military presence and proposes
economic inducements designed to make basing more
affordable. Rheinland-Pfalz officials also announced that
a high-level delegation will visit Washington on March 23-
24 to engage decision-makers on the issue. The German
Embassy in Washington will coordinate the program.
4. (SBU) The incentives package's focus is a public-private
initiative to build new military housing, with public land
to be donated by the state and federal governments
providing land (either free or at reduced cost), and
construction supplied by a private developer (as yet
unnamed). Under the proposed arrangement (along the lines
of the Residential Communities Initiative within the U.S.),
the developer would lease the new developments to the U.S.
military, providing new housing and related facilities
(community center, pre-schools) without requiring the U.S.
military to pay for construction up front. NOTE: Staffers
pointed out that the RCI program in the U.S. involves long-
term leases (up to 50 years), and questioned whether
Rheinland-Pfalz would be able to secure private financing
given the shorter time horizon of overseas bases. END
5. (SBU) R-P officials continue to press their case despite
USG assurances that the basing review is neither connected
to recent disagreements over Iraq nor subject to influence
through lobbying. R-P officials fear the state's rural
economy will not be able to recover from massive troop
reductions in the same way that Bavaria, a state with a
larger and more diverse infrastructure, could, especially
given Germany's long-term economic stagnation. In the
absence of a final decision, R-P officials have targeted
their lobbying efforts to respond to recent "insider
reports" (in Stars and Stripes, Wall Street Journal, and
Handelsblatt) on timetables and numbers of troop reductions
in Germany, despite the absence of any confirmation of
these reports through official channels.
6. (SBU) R-P officials claim to be confident that Ramstein
will remain largely intact in the upcoming review but worry
about other bases in the area, particularly Baumholder
(13,000 troops) and Spangdahlem (5,000). CG and EUCOM
Deputy Commander General Charles Wald are scheduled to meet
with Rheinland-Pfalz Minister-President Kurt Beck (SPD
Social Democrat) in April to follow up on U/S Grossman's
consultations in Berlin. In the interim, we expect
lobbying efforts to remain intense Rheinland-Pfalz feels
that it has nothing to gain and everything to lose by
sitting on the sidelines as the process unfolds. END
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