More frugal U.S. military forgoes Europe golf course, skeet range

WASHINGTON Fri May 23, 2014 6:05pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is shedding European real estate including a golf course, skeet range and hotel, as well as facilities like a munitions storage facility, as it looks to save cash during a U.S. budget crunch, officials said on Friday.

Rear Admiral John Kirby stressed the decisions to return the sites to host nations in Germany, Italy and elsewhere would not affect the U.S. military's ability field personnel in Europe -- a sensitive subject as the Ukraine crisis causes the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

"I think it's pretty self-evident that it doesn't at all change our military capability on the continent or degrade in any way our readiness to meet our security commitments there in Europe," Kirby told reporters.

He said the decision to turn the 21 sites to Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece, the United Kingdom and Belgium would save about $60 million a year. Still, it is only the first step in reductions that will be ordered through an ongoing look at America's military footprint in Europe, called the European Infrastructure Consolidation review.

The Pentagon is struggling to implement nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over a decade, as required by law, and had been under pressure from Congress to cut non-essential facilities abroad prior to scaling back bases and other infrastructure in the United States.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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