Cover: Working with Allies and Partners

Working with Allies and Partners

A Cost-Based Analysis of U.S. Air Forces in Europe

Published Nov 8, 2012

by Jennifer D. P. Moroney, Patrick Mills, David T. Orletsky, David E. Thaler


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Research Questions

  1. Are there cost savings realized when building partnerships with forward-based forces?
  2. What might be gained or lost from a cost perspective, by moving U.S. Air Forces in Europe forces to the continental United States?
  3. What might those cost differentials imply about the relative trade-offs of building partnerships from U.S. Air Forces in Europe rather than the continental United States?
  4. How can the answers to the first two questions inform a more strategic risk assessment of moving U.S. Air Forces in Europe forces?

U.S. European Command (EUCOM) views building partnerships as its highest theater priority. U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) seeks to build partnerships and partner capacity in the EUCOM area of responsibility. In spite of the potential benefits of USAFE's building-partnership (BP) activities, USAFE's posture and its BP activities do come with a cost. In today's austere fiscal environment, it is appropriate to assess how the United States and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) can build partnerships most efficiently while ensuring that the requirements for maintaining key alliances and partnerships continue to be met. This report characterizes the current policy debate on security cooperation and force posture in Europe through a review of the literature and discussions with key policymakers and legislative officials in Washington, develops a framework to describe the current BP approach and environment for the USAF in Europe, defines several alternative postures for conducting BP activities using a building-block approach to cost out each high-payoff BP activity, and recommends efficiencies to improve the USAF's BP activities in Europe.

Key Findings

Building Partnerships in Europe

  • Forward basing facilitates important relationship- and capacity-building partnership-building activities.
  • A significant portion of U.S. Air Forces in Europe's partnership-building activities is opportunity-driven, with building partnerships as an ancillary benefit to U.S. training in and with partner countries.
  • Partnership-building–related strategy and objectives at the country and event levels are not clear to the personnel and units that execute partnership-building activities.
  • Although many U.S. units and personnel derive training benefit from partnership-building activities and presence in Europe, some get less benefit than others.
  • Existing U.S. Air Forces in Europe reporting processes capture only part of the partnership-building level of effort in the command.
  • There are some missed partnership-building opportunities.
  • The presence of forward-based forces facilitates coalition operations.
  • The need to build relationships, capacity, and access in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility for coalition operations will continue beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

Costs for Building Partnerships in Europe

  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe's partnership-building activities are relatively efficient.
  • Generating U.S. Air Forces in Europe's current partnership-building activities from the continental United States could greatly increase the marginal cost of building partnerships.
  • If U.S. Air Forces in Europe forces were moved to the continental United States, some partnership-building activities would need to be significantly curtailed to be cost neutral with regard to direct partnership-building costs.
  • Finally, although the marginal costs to build partnerships in U.S. Air Forces in Europe are very sensitive to whether forces are located in Europe versus in the continental United States, these changes still have a small overall budget impact relative to total U.S. Air Forces in Europe operating costs.


  • Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe should ensure that building partnerships and security cooperation are included in the force posture debate where it affects U.S. Air Force forces.
  • Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe should develop a partnership-building strategy for engagement with European partners post–Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe should streamline processes for data collection and analysis.
  • In coordination with the wings, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe should take advantage of additional partnership-building opportunities.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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