The U.S. military is scaling back DEFENDER-Europe 20, an exercise the Army has spent years building. Initially, the training exercise called for 20,000 troops, but on Wednesday, March 11, the U.S. European Command announced that the number was being cut back. The 60-day DOD travel ban to level 3 countries went into effect on March 13. Military.com writes:
DEFENDER-Europe 20 was set to be the biggest deployment for an exercise in 25 years, , with 20,000 soldiers deploying from the U.S. and training with 17,000 allies.
“In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, we will modify the exercise by reducing the number of U.S. participants,” the EUCOM statement said. “Activities associated with the exercise will be adjusted accordingly, and we’ll work closely with allies and partners to meet our highest priority training objectives.”
Reducing military exercises is an obvious step to stop the spread of the virus, said Mark Cancian, a retired colonel and senior security adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said he does not believe the command will cancel the exercise completely.
“This is just the beginning of widespread curtailment of military exercises overseas,” he said. “[Europe] is not more dangerous than the United States. It would be different if the United States was unaffected [by the virus] and [troops] were going to a place that was severely affected, but that’s not the case.”
But as the virus continues spreading, he said the U.S. will most likely have to “eliminate virtually all future military exercises overseas” and quarantine the troops and equipment deployed to participate in exercises like DEFENDER-Europe 20.
The announcement followed on EUCOM’s cancellation of two other joint training exercises within a week that were already underway – one in Norway and a second in Israel.